Trump leans into fear-based rhetoric on immigration in State of the Union as he pressures Democrats for wall funding

  • President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address on Tuesday said the US has a “moral duty” to address undocumented immigration as he pressured Democrats to support his call for a border wall.
  • “Simply put walls work and walls save lives,” Trump said.
  • Trump had threatened to declare a national emergency to obtain funding for his long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border, but he did not address this in his speech on Tuesday night.
  • Democrats have refused to give into Trump’s demands for funding.
  • Follow along with all of INSIDER’s coverage of the State of the Union here.

President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address on Tuesday offered fiery rhetoric on undocumented immigration in an effort to pressure Democrats to support his calls for a border wall.

“Now is the time to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration,” Trump said in his address.

“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration,” Trump added. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”

He said “tolerance” for undocumented immigration is “not compassionate, it is actually very cruel.”

“Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens,” Trump said in an effort to depict undocumented immigrants as a violent threat to Americans, despite data that shows native-born Americans are more likely to commit violent crimes.

“Walls work and walls save lives,” Trump declared. “So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.”

The president has demanded $US5.7 billion in funding for the wall he wishes to build along the US-Mexico border, but Democrats in Congress have refused to give in to the request. The impasse over this issue sparked the record-breaking, 35-day shutdown in December and January.

Meanwhile, Trump has at times threatened to declare a national emergency amid his fight with Democrats over the wall that led to the longest government shutdown in US history. Trump did not address the prospect of declaring a national emergency during his speech on Tuesday.

Read more:
The complete history of the US State of the Union address

The shutdown ended when Trump agreed to a temporary budget that funded the government for three weeks, but included no money for the wall.

At the time, Trump warned that at the end of that period he’d potentially use his emergency powers to obtain the funding.

But declaring a national emergency over such a politically divisive issue would be highly controversial and likely face opposition in the courts. Top Republicans in Congress are also not on board with the idea, which they feel would do further damage to the already embattled party’s image.

There are also concerns about executive overreach and the precedent that could be set by declaring an emergency in this context. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, for example, expressed consternation that a future Democratic president could use it as the basis for declaring a national emergency on climate change.

Read more:
A lot of Republicans are worried about the dangerous precedent Trump could set with a national emergency declaration for the border wall

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Monday warned there could be a “war” within the GOP if Trump declared a national emergency.

“I don’t know why you need to declare a national emergency. You’ve got 3,700 troops at the border,” Graham added.

Polls showed most Americans blamed Trump and the GOP for the shutdown, which Trump in early December said he’d be “proud” to take responsibility for if it meant achieving his border-security goals. Trump later blamed Democrats for the shutdown.

Experts widely agree that a wall would not address the myriad issues the US faces in terms of immigration and Republican Rep. Will Hurd – who represents more of the southern border than any of his House colleagues – strongly opposes Trump’s plan.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.