US President Donald Trump has reiterated his demand for $ 5.7 billion to fund a wall on the border with Mexico, asserting that the "growing crisis" of illegal immigration is hurting millions of Americans.
"America's heart broke the day after Christmas when a young police officer in California was savagely murdered in cold blood by an illegal alien, who just came across the border," Trump said in his maiden address from Oval office on Tuesday night.
The 33-year-old Indian-origin police officer Corporal Ronil 'Ron' Singh was shot dead during traffic checking a day after Christmas by an illegal immigrant, identified as Gustavo Perez Arriaga, when he was planning to flee to his native country Mexico.
A wall along the US-Mexico border was one of Trump's signature campaign promises which the Democrats are adamantly opposing, arguing that a wall would be costly and ineffective and - in the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi-'immorality.'
President Trump also spoke about illegal immigration and said it "strains public resources" and drives down jobs and wages, emphasising its impact on African-American and Hispanic communities. He also stressed upon the need to slash the cost of the illegal drug trade, which he put at $ 500 billion a year.
"There is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. Every day customs and border patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country," President Trump said.
"We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country. America proudly welcomes millions of lawful immigrants who enrich our society and contribute to our nation. But all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal migration."
Funding for a border wall has been one of the key issues in the White House negotiations with congressional Democrats to reopen parts of the federal government that have been closed for 18 days. The President said the wall's cost would be taken care of "indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico."
President Trump did not declare a national emergency, as had been speculated he might, while the Democratic leaders repeated their push to re-open the government without funding for a border wall.
The budget standoff triggered a partial government shutdown on December 22 last year, shuttering nine federal departments and several smaller agencies and forcing some 800,000 workers to go on unpaid leave or work without pay. The shutdown will enter its 19th day on Wednesday, making it the second-longest in the US history.
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