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Trump threatens emergency declaration ahead of border visit

By CATHERINE LUCEY, LISA MASCARO and LAURIE KELLMAN, WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can’t reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall. He headed to the U.S.-Mexico border to draw further attention to his case after negotiations with lawmakers blew up.

The partial government shutdown dragged into a 20th day with hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job or working without pay as the wall fight persisted.

Asked about a national emergency declaration, Trump said as he left the White House for Texas, “I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to I will.” He contends such a declaration would allow him to direct the military to begin wall construction.

“So we’re either going to have a win, make a compromise —because I think a compromise is a win for everybody— or I will declare a national emergency,” he said.

It’s not clear what a compromise might entail. Trump says he won’t reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favor measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable walling that Trump envisions. He is asking $5.7 billion for wall construction.

Trump’s comments came a day after he walked out of a negotiating meeting with congressional leaders — “I said bye-bye,” he tweeted soon after — as efforts to end the partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray. Affected federal workers face lost paychecks on Friday, and more people are touched every day by the rollback of government services.

Putting the standoff in personal terms, the president tweeted before leaving for Texas: “The Opposition Party & the Dems know we must have Strong Border Security, but don’t want to give ‘Trump’ another one of many wins!”

In McAllen, Texas, Trump will visit a border patrol station for a roundtable discussion on immigration and border security and will get a briefing. But he has expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks will change any minds as he seeks money for the wall that has been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.

McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.

The White House meeting in the Situation Room ended after just 14 minutes. Democrats said they asked Trump to reopen the government but he told them if he did they wouldn’t give him money for the wall. Republicans said Trump posed a direct question to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: If he opened the government, would she fund the wall? She said no.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump slammed his hand on the table. But Trump, who handed out candy at the start of the meeting, disputed that characterization. He said he “didn’t smash the table” but “should have.”

One result was certain: The shutdown plunged into new territory with no endgame in sight. The Democrats see the idea of the long wall as ineffective and even immoral. Trump sees it as an absolute necessity to stop what he calls a crisis of illegal immigration, drug-smuggling and human trafficking at the border.

In the months leading up to the shutdown, there was a large increase in the number of family members apprehended at the border. Monthly family apprehensions subsequently hit new highs in September, October and November 2018, according to data going back to 2012. There were nearly 17,000 family member apprehensions in September, more than 23,000 in October and more than 25,000 in November. (Customs and Border Protection is among the federal agencies affected by the shutdown; as a result, December data will not be available until funding is restored.)

All told, nearly 136,000 family members were apprehended between January and November last year – more than three times as many as during the same time period in 2017, and the highest number during any January-November period since at least 2012.

Family units make up an increasing share of U.S. border apprehensions

Family members accounted for a third (33%) of all border apprehensions over this period – the highest share within the past seven years. The months leading up to the shutdown drove this increase: Family member apprehensions in November made up nearly half (49%) of total Southwest border apprehensions that month, the third consecutive high since September (40%).

Border agents also apprehended around 49,000 unaccompanied children from January to November – or 12% of the total – though this share was lower than in both 2014 and 2016 (both 14%). (Unaccompanied child apprehensions do not include children who were apprehended as a family unit and later became unaccompanied as a result of prosecution initiatives.)

Besides unaccompanied children and family members, other apprehensions (such as adults traveling solo or with other adults) continue to account for the largest share of border apprehensions: Between January and November of last year, there were more than 231,000 other individual apprehensions, or about 56% of the total.

The apprehension of families and unaccompanied children received renewed attention following the Trump administration’s announcement of a “zero tolerance” policy in April last year. The policy led families to be separated at the border starting in May, though Trump ended the policy in an executive order in late June.

Family separations do still occur – such as when adult migrants traveling with children are apprehended at the border and deemed to be involved in criminal or gang activity – though more rarely than under the zero tolerance policy. From June 21 through November, 81 children were separated from 76 adult family members at the border, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

More U.S. border apprehensions of non-Mexicans than Mexicans in 2017The vast majority of immigrant families and unaccompanied minors apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border come from Mexico or the Northern Triangle region (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras). And in recent years, there have been more overall apprehensions of non-Mexicans than Mexicans at U.S. borders, reflecting a decline in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants coming to the U.S. over the past decade.

Many families are leaving countries with high levels of violent crime, a fact highlighted in 2017 by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who said “vicious gangs and vast criminal organizations” drive illegal immigration to the U.S. In 2016, El Salvador had the world’s highest murder rate (82.8 homicides per 10,000 people), followed by Honduras (at a rate of 56.5). Guatemala was 10th (at 27.3), according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Poverty represents another motivating force for migration from Central America. Northern Triangle nations are among the poorest in Latin America, and although some have seen a reduction of extreme poverty in recent years, high shares of people still live on less than $2 a day (the international poverty line is $1.90). Within Latin America and the Caribbean, Honduras has the second-highest share (16%) of people below the international poverty line, after Haiti (24%), according to the latest data from the World Bank. Guatemala is fourth-highest at 9%. In El Salvador, 2% of people live below $2 a day.

Given the level of poverty in the region, some migrants seek out economic opportunity in the U.S. in hopes of sending money back to their home countries. Most remittance dollars flowing to Latin America come from the U.S., and for Northern Triangle countries in particular, remittances make up a relatively large share of each country’s gross domestic product. In Honduras, for example, remittances were 19% of the nation’s GDP in 2017, according to data from the World Bank. In comparison, remittances were about 3% of Mexico’s GDP last year.

For unaccompanied children, family reunification could also be a strong driver. Among children from the Northern Triangle who were apprehended by the U.S. between January 2014 and April 2015, 60% were released to a parent already living in the U.S. Fewer than 10% were released to a non-family sponsor, such as a family friend or a person the family had no previous relationship with, according to an analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Alan Fram and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

Published Date: Thursday, January 10th, 2019 | 10:34 PM

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