Instead of backing down, Trump threatens to shut the border
Both the Democrats and the Republicans are locked in a tough impasse over Trump’s border wall plan. At this stage, in the larger interest of federal workers and the US economy, Trump must play ‘statesman’ for once and arrive at an acceptable compromise.
A week has passed since the partial shutdown of the US government over Democrat’s refusal of Trump’s demand for a wall across the Mexican border. The cards are against Trump on this issue. Around 47% of Americans blamed the POTUS for this impasse, while only 33% blamed the Democrats in a survey conducted by Reuters/Ipsos that was released on Thursday.
Trump’s approval ratings have also fallen in a December 21-23 poll by Morning Consult, where around 39% of the registered voters approved of his performance and 56% did not. Moreover, around 57% of Americans either oppose or strongly oppose significant expansion of the wall on the Mexican border that is the moot sticking point according to a Gallup survey.
But despite the reversals, Trump is certainly not one to back down. A week into the partial shutdown, what he has managed largely is another controversy on his claims of ensuring 10% annual pay raises for American soldiers during his visit to Iraq. His incoming Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has affirmed that the President has stayed in Washington for the Christmas weekend. Moreover, Trump has cancelled his New Year plans and will continue to remain in Washington during the period. Mulvaney claimed that Trump was negotiating heavily with Democrats on a minute-by-minute basis and blamed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for stalling negotiations.
On Friday, Trump tweeted on the continued shutdown, “We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with.”
Trump went on to lament about how US was losing around US$ 75 billion a year in its trade with Mexico (not including drug money) and he would consider the closing of the border with Mexico a profit making operation. The President also added that he was contemplating cutting off aid to Honduras, Gautemala and El Salvador who have been “taking advantage of the US for years”.
The Mexican side of the border is flooded with thousands of desperate migrants from Central American countries seeking asylum in the US. Faced with long processing delays, some of them have also tried to illegally cross the border. Two child migrants from Gautemala even died in custody of US Customs and Border Patrol Agents in December. But experts feel that closing borders and aid could only further aggravate the problem by increasing poverty and violence that will lead to more migration.
The Democrats would like to opt for other more effective counter measures instead of a wall. Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, stated on Thursday, “The President said more than 25 times he wanted a shutdown and unfortunately, he has unnecessarily caused one because he has chosen to ignore any viable proposal that would secure the border and pass both the House and Senate, including those that Leaders Pelosi and Schumer supported. Instead, the President continues to push proposals to fund the ineffective and expensive wall, which he knows can’t pass the Senate.” The Democrats are refusing to allow anything more than US$ 1.3 billion in additional border security funds, and they are also adamant that no funds should go to the wall.
With both sides digging in, Trump’s best bet is to arrive at a compromise for the moment, in the interest of 800,000 federal workers currently without pay and also in the interest of the US economy in general as it enters the new year. He could push the blame on ‘Obstructionist Democrats’ all he wants later on. But taking the higher moral ground as President would be advisable once in certain desperate times, even for Trump. And this is one of those times.