The US government has been partially closed for 17 days, with federal agencies struggling to provide services and hundreds of thousands of workers going unpaid. Picture: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
The US government has been partially closed for 17 days, with federal agencies struggling to provide services and hundreds of thousands of workers going unpaid. Picture: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Trump’s drastic step amid US turmoil

Donald Trump is heading to the US-Mexico border this week, with the United States in chaos and an immigration crisis looming after 17 days of partial government shutdown.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that the US President would "travel to the Southern border on Thursday to meet with those on the front lines".

Mr Trump said he would "address the nation on the humanitarian and national security crisis" on Tuesday at 9pm Eastern Time.

The President is demanding $US5.7 billion ($A8 billion) to fund his long-promised border wall on the southern border, but Democrats have refused to agree to provide money for the plan they see as "immoral".

It means Congress has not been able to pass funding for key government agencies, with services on hold and 800,000 federal workers on leave without pay or working without pay.

National parks, airports and immigration courts are struggling to function, and the dire situation for America is only set to get worse as the government remains at an impasse.

But Mr Trump said all was going well, and that he was now thinking of building a steel wall, rather than a concrete one as he initially planned.

Acting White House budget director Russell Vought sent a letter to congressional leaders on Sunday listing the administration's demands, which include $US5.7 billion "for construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border" plus "an additional $800 million ($A1.1 billion) to address urgent humanitarian needs" and unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the border.

The Democrats only want to provide $US1.3 billion ($A1.8 billion) for border security, which includes funding for a fence instead of a wall.

The situation at the border is worsening under the Trump administration, with migrants waiting on the Mexican side for weeks or months before they can submit applications, according to the New York Times. Desperately families are increasingly turning to people smugglers, who charge exorbitant rates for assistance in sneaking into the US.

With Democrats now holding the majority in the House of Representatives and Republicans controlling the Senate, a bipartisan solution is essential. But ongoing talks have come to nothing, with both sides sticking to their guns.

Mr Trump in recent days said he would be prepared to declare a national emergency to redirect defence department money toward wall construction, although experts were unclear about the legality of this.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attacked the idea on Sunday, telling CBS News the President "would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress so the only voice that mattered was his own."

Mr Trump insists that only his controversial wall will be sufficient to solve US immigration issues, stating last week that he would be willing to leave the government in shutdown for "months or even years" if necessary.

He said Republicans "feel very strongly about having a safe country, about having a border that makes sense."

Some GOP politicians have suggested tying funding for the wall to support for young immigrants known as "Dreamers", but neither the President or Democratic Party have indicated that they would agree to this.

Mr Trump's journey to the wall will draw the eyes of the world's media to the face of the political battle, as the argument swells into perhaps the greatest battle of his turbulent presidency.

The President said on Sunday that he was sympathetic to the government workers going without pay but that "many of those people agree with what I'm doing."

He told reporters outside the White House: "I can relate, and I'm sure the people who are on the receiving end will make adjustments; they always do."



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