2:17 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. My fellow Americans, I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and re-open the federal government. (Applause.) As everyone knows, I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn’t want to use it at this time. Hopefully it will be unnecessary.
I want to thank all of the incredible federal workers, and their amazing families, who have shown such extraordinary devotion in the face of this recent hardship. You are fantastic people. You are incredible patriots. Many of you have suffered far greater than anyone, but your families would know or understand. And not only did you not complain, but in many cases you encouraged me to keep going because you care so much about our country and about its border security.
Again, I thank you. All Americans, I thank you. You are very, very special people. I am so proud that you are citizens of our country. When I say “Make America Great Again,” it could never be done without you. Great people.
In a short while, I will sign a bill to open our government for three weeks until February 15th. I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly, or as soon as possible. It’ll happen fast. I am asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put this proposal on the floor immediately.
After 36 days of spirited debate and dialogue, I have seen and heard from enough Democrats and Republicans that they are willing to put partisanship aside — I think — and put the security of the American people first. I do believe they’re going to do that. They have said they are for complete border security, and they have finally and fully acknowledged that having barriers, fencing, or walls — or whatever you want to call it — will be an important part of the solution.
A bipartisan Conference Committee of House and Senate lawmakers and leaders will immediately begin reviewing the requests of our Homeland Security experts — and experts they are — and also law enforcement professionals, who have worked with us so closely. We want to thank Border Patrol, ICE, and all law enforcement. Been incredible. (Applause.)
Based on operational guidance from the experts in the field, they will put together a Homeland Security package for me to shortly sign into law.
Over the next 21 days, I expect that both Democrats and Republicans will operate in good faith. This is an opportunity for all parties to work together for the benefit of our whole beautiful, wonderful nation.
If we make a fair deal, the American people will be proud of their government for proving that we can put country before party. We can show all Americans, and people all around the world, that both political parties are united when it comes to protecting our country and protecting our people.
Many disagree, but I really feel that, working with Democrats and Republicans, we can make a truly great and secure deal happen for everyone.
Walls should not be controversial. Our country has built 654 miles of barrier over the last 15 years, and every career Border Patrol agent I have spoken with has told me that walls work. They do work. No matter where you go, they work. Israel built a wall — 99.9 percent successful. Won’t be any different for us.
They keep criminals out. They save good people from attempting a very dangerous journey from other countries — thousands of miles — because they think they have a glimmer of hope of coming through. With a wall, they don’t have that hope. They keep drugs out, and they dramatically increase efficiency by allowing us to patrol far larger areas with far fewer people. It’s just common sense. Walls work.
That’s why most of the Democrats in Congress have voted in the past for bills that include walls and physical barriers and very powerful fences. The walls we are building are not medieval walls. They are smart walls designed to meet the needs of frontline border agents, and are operationally effective. These barriers are made of steel, have see-through visibility, which is very important, and are equipped with sensors, monitors, and cutting-edge technology, including state-of-the-art drones.
We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea — we never did; we never proposed that; we never wanted that — because we have barriers at the border where natural structures are as good as anything that we can build. They’re already there. They’ve been there for millions of years.
Our proposed structures will be in pre-determined high-risk locations that have been specifically identified by the Border Patrol to stop illicit flows of people and drugs. No border security plan can ever work without a physical barrier. Just doesn’t happen.
At the same time, we need to increase drug detection technology and manpower to modernize our ports of entry, which are obsolete. The equipment is obsolete. They’re old. They’re tired. This is something we have all come to agree on, and will allow for quicker and safer commerce. These critical investments will improve and facilitate legal trade and travel through our lawful ports of entry.
Our plan also includes desperately needed humanitarian assistance for those being exploited and abused by coyotes, smugglers, and the dangerous journey north.
The requests we have put before Congress are vital to ending the humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border. Absolutely vital. Will not work without it.
This crisis threatens the safety of our country and thousands of American lives. Criminal cartels, narco-terrorists, transnational gangs like MS-13, and human traffickers are brazenly violating U.S. laws and terrorizing innocent communities.
Human traffickers — the victims are women and children. Maybe to a lesser extent, believe or not, children. Women are tied up. They’re bound. Duct tape put around their faces, around their mouths. In many cases, they can’t even breathe. They’re put in the backs of cars or vans or trucks. They don’t go through your port of entry. They make a right turn going very quickly. They go into the desert areas, or whatever areas you can look at. And as soon as there’s no protection, they make a left or a right into the United States of America. There’s nobody to catch them. There’s nobody to find them.
They can’t come through the port, because if they come through the port, people will see four women sitting in a van with tape around their face and around their mouth. Can’t have that.
And that problem, because of the Internet, is the biggest problem — it’s never been like this before — that you can imagine. It’s at the worst level — human trafficking — in the history of the world. This is not a United States problem; this is a world problem. But they come through areas where they have no protection, where they have no steel barriers, where they have no walls. And we can stop almost 100 percent of that.
The profits reaped by these murderous organizations are used to fund their malign and destabilizing conduct throughout this hemisphere.
Last year alone, ICE officers removed 10,000 known or suspected gang members, like MS-13 and members as bad as them. Horrible people. Tough. Mean. Sadistic. In the last two years, ICE officers arrested a total of 266,000 criminal aliens inside of the United States, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 homicides or, as you would call them, violent, vicious killings. It can be stopped.
Vast quantities of lethal drugs — including meth, fentanyl, heroin, and cocaine — are smuggled across our southern border and into U.S. schools and communities. Drugs kill much more than 70,000 Americans a year and cost our society in excess of $700 billion.
The sheer volume of illegal immigration has overwhelmed federal authorities and stretched our immigration system beyond the breaking point. Nearly 50 migrants a day are being referred for medical assistance — they are very, very sick — making this a health crisis as well. It’s a very big health crisis. People have no idea how big it is, unless you’re there.
Our backlog in the immigration courts is now far greater than the 800,000 cases that you’ve been hearing about over the last couple of years. Think of that, though: 800,000 cases because our laws are obsolete. So obsolete. They’re the laughing stock all over the world. Our immigration laws, all over the world — they’ve been there for a long time — are the laughing stock, all over the world.
We do not have the necessary space or resources to detain, house, vet, screen, and safely process this tremendous influx of people. In short, we do not have control over who is entering our country, where they come from, who they are, or why they are coming.
The result, for many years, is a colossal danger to public safety. We’re going to straighten it out. It’s not hard. It’s easy, if given the resources.
Last month was the third straight month in a row with 60,000 apprehensions on our southern border. Think of that. we apprehended 60,000 people. That’s like a stadium full of people. A big stadium.
There are many criminals being apprehended, but vast numbers are coming because our economy is so strong. We have the strongest economy now in the entire world. You see what’s happening. We have nowhere left to house them and no way to promptly remove them. We can’t get them out because our laws are so obsolete, so antiquated, and so bad.
Without new resources from Congress, we will be forced to release these people into communities — something we don’t want to do — called catch-and-release. You catch them. Even if they are criminals, you then release them. And you can’t release them from where they came, so they go into our country and end up in places you would least suspect. And we do as little releasing as possible, by they’re coming by the hundreds of thousands.
I have had zero Democrat lawmakers volunteer to have them released into their districts or states. And I think they know that, and that’s what we’re going to be discussing over the next three weeks.
The painful reality is that the tremendous economic and financial burdens of illegal immigration fall on the shoulders of low-income Americans, including millions of wonderful, patriotic, law-abiding immigrants who enrich our nation.
As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the defense of our great country. We cannot surrender operational control over the nation’s borders to foreign cartels, traffickers, and smugglers. We want future Americans to come to our country legally and through a system based on merit. We need people to come to our country. We have great companies moving back into the United States. And we have the lowest employment and the best employment numbers that we’ve ever had. There are more people working today in the United States than have ever worked in our country. We need people to come in to help us — the farms, and with all of these great companies that are moving back. Finally, they’re moving back. People said it couldn’t happen. It’s happening.
And we want them to enjoy the blessings of safety and liberty, and the rule of law. We cannot protect and deliver these blessings without a strong and secure border.
I believe that crime in this country can go down by a massive percentage if we have great security on our southern border. I believe drugs, large percentages of which come through the southern border, will be cut by a number that nobody will believe.
So let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier. If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15th, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency. We will have great security.
And I want to thank you all very much. Thank you very much. (Applause.)