After his latest meeting with Democratic leaders ended with him declaring the talks “a total waste of time” and Senator Chuck Schumer characterizing his behavior as a “temper tantrum,” U.S. President Donald Trump is going Thursday to the U.S.-Mexico border.
His visit to McCallen, Texas, is scheduled to include border security briefings as well as stops at a border patrol station and the border area along the Rio Grande River.
WATCH: Frustrations Run High in Third Week of Shutdown
U.S. Customs and Border Protection data indicate the Rio Grande Valley sector is where in recent years agents have apprehended by far the most people trying to illegally cross into the country. In 2017, it accounted for 44 percent of border apprehensions.
Rights groups in Texas opposed to Trump’s demand for more than $5 billion in funding for a border wall and his immigration policies are planning a demonstration Thursday at McCallen’s airport.
Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents McCallen in Congress, said he is glad Trump is visiting the district, but that what the United States needs is intelligent spending that brings real security to the region.
“You’ll see one of the safest communities in the state and in the country. You will see that we don’t need a wall,” Gonzalez said in a video message Wednesday. “What we need to do is figure how we’re going to fill the 7,500 vacancies in our Customs and Border Patrol. We need to use technology to secure the border.”
Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, are traveling with Trump on Thursday and say the border wall is necessary.
The U.S. government has been under a partial shutdown since Dec. 22 as Trump demands money to build a barrier along at least part of the 3,200-kilometer border with Mexico, a favorite pledge during his campaign for president.
Democrats have offered $1.3 billion in added spending for border security measures such as high-tech surveillance systems, but not for a wall.
Trump hosted Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday at the White House to discuss the issue, but he abruptly walked out of the meeting after they again refused his demand.The president said he asked them whether they would approve a wall or a steel barrier at the border if he agreed to end the shutdown and while negotiations on border security are held over the next 30 days. But when “Nancy said, ‘NO.’ I said, ‘Bye-bye,’ nothing else works!
“Again we saw a temper tantrum,” Schumer told reporters outside the White House before Trump had a chance to tweet about the aborted meeting. “He just walked out and said we have nothing to discuss.”
Pelosi said, “We have a better idea how to protect the border and it isn’t a wall.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who also was in the abbreviated meeting, the third between Trump and congressional leaders in recent days, said, “Today, we have heard once again that Democrats are unwilling to negotiate. The president is going to stand firm … to stem the crisis on our southern border.”
While the dispute goes on, about one quarter of government operations have been shuttered, with many government services curtailed and 800,000 federal civil servants furloughed or forced to work without pay.
The tense meeting at the White House came a day after Trump addressed the nation in a prime-time televised speech from the Oval Office. He said the wall was necessary to block migrants and keep drugs out of the country.
In their rebuttal Tuesday, Pelosi and Schumer derided Trump’s oft-repeated claim that Mexico would pay for the wall, instead of U.S. taxpayers.
“The president of the United States — having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall, and unable to convince the Congress or the American people to foot the bill — has shut down the government,” Schumer said. “American democracy doesn’t work that way. We don’t govern by temper tantrum.”
Other Democratic senators also said they were unmoved by Trump’s demand for a barrier.
Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire told VOA, “I didn’t hear the president say anything that would change my mind. We should be re-opening the government.”
Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama said, “We need to dial back the rhetoric and not use fear. Let’s talk strictly about border security in the long run, not just a short-term fix. We need to figure out how to get this government open, No. 1, and fix our borders, No. 2.”
Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana called Trump’s comments in his speech about border security “very appropriate.” He said Schumer and Pelosi’s support for border security but not a wall was “juvenile … very disingenuous. I think most Americans understand that it’s purely political.”
Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas told VOA that he thinks a compromise might eventually be reached.
“I think the president will wind up with not all that he wants,” Boozman said, “and Democrats are going to have to give some. I think that’s really the solution.”