President Donald Trump has discussed building a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico since his presidential campaign in 2016.
Since then, the Trump administration has attempted to tighten security and reduce the number of people who cross the border illegally in multiple ways, including stricter policies and the deployment of active-duty military troops to the border.
In 2016, Pew Research estimated that 10.7 million undocumented immigrants lived in the U.S., a number that has been decreasing since 2007. An article published by the Cato Institute in June 2018 found that arrest rates of U.S. citizens are at least 40 percent higher than non-citizens’. In Texas in 2015, “there were 50 percent fewer criminal convictions of illegal immigrants than of native-born Americans.”
Immigrants who have been seized attempting to cross the border illegally are often transferred to detainment centers throughout the nation, frequently splitting up families in the process. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been separating children from their parents for many years, but in May 2018, the Trump administration created a “zero-tolerance” executive order requiring all undocumented adults be criminally prosecuted, increasing the number of separations to almost 2,000 between April and May 2018.
The plan to erect the border wall escalated on December 22, 2018 when Trump refused to sign a spending bill without funding for his border wall, causing parts of the government, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Justice, to shut down for 35 days. In his attempt to persuade the Democrats to fund the wall, it became the longest government shutdown in United States history. During this time, more than 800,000 government employees did not receive paychecks, creating employee shortages in many government agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.
On January 28, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the shutdown caused a loss of $11 billion.
Many Bay Area National Parks, such as Point Reyes and various forts in the area, were closed because of the shutdown; however, certain areas and services were still available to the public due to the efforts of private agreements and donations, like those of Mary Margaret Stewart, restaurant owner who helped keep Stinson Beach open during the shutdown.
On January 8, the 18th day of the government shutdown, Trump addressed the nation in his first Oval Office address. Past presidents have used these addresses to relay important information about events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis or the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In a nine minute speech, Trump spoke about the necessity of action at the southern border to stop the inflow of unauthorized immigrants, which he labeled a “humanitarian crisis”.
“America proudly welcomes lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation,” Trump said. “But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration…The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only; because Democrats will not fund border security.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded about five minutes after the address. The two urged Trump to “End. This. Shutdown. Now.”
“We all agree we need to secure our borders while honoring our values,” Pelosi said.
“Make no mistake,” Schumer said. “Democrats and the President both want stronger border security; however, we sharply disagree with the President about the most effective way to do it. There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference.”
On January 9, Trump met with congressional leaders in a meeting to discuss funding for the wall. Trump called it “a total waste of time,” as the Democrats refused to provide more than $1.3 billion, far less than the $5.7 billion needed to fund the wall, despite his offers to end the shutdown if they did so.
On January 25, the previously closed parts of the government reopened. The government will remain open until February 15, when Trump claimed that either it will shut down again or he will declare a national emergency to allow him to erect the wall without Congress’ approval.