As President Donald Trump and Congress fail to reach a compromise on border security, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is expressing support for building a border wall while funding essential functions of the federal government.
As the government shutdown approached the three-week mark, already the third-longest in U.S. history, Trump on Tuesday used a nationally televised address to blame Democrats for the government shutdown because they would not accede to his demand for $5.7 billion to extend a U.S. southern border fence to stem what he described as a humanitarian and security crisis.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, in an interview Wednesday with conservative radio host Jay Weber, said he supports the president’s request for a wall, and called Democrats hypocritical for opposing it while minimizing the issue of border security.
“If there was one thing that President Trump ran on, it was securing our border, keeping this nation safe, building a wall,” Johnson said. “We have no idea who’s coming across our porous southern border.”
He also urged Republicans to begin funding essential functions of the federal government, such as the Coast Guard and USDA food inspector positions. Johnson said he recently co-sponsored legislation that would ensure Coast Guard officials are paid.
Johnson has previously expressed support for extending the border wall. On Wednesday he argued that strengthening the barrier would help discourage migrants, many of them asylum seekers, from attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. He noted such migrants face hurdles on their journey, such as sexual assault.
“We’re incentivizing people taking those types of risks. That is not humane treatment,” he said.
Johnson has also critiqued the entire U.S. immigration system, pointing to the length of the adjudication and appeals process, along with the backlog of immigration cases, as essentially encouraging people to immigrate illegally.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, on social media after Trump’s speech voiced her opposition to the government shutdown and the president’s rhetoric surrounding it. She blamed Trump for continuing the shutdown over his inability to persuade Mexico to pay for the wall.
“The American people shouldn’t pay for this lie,” Baldwin wrote.
Baldwin, in a statement, said she supports passing legislation that would instead provide “smart and cost-effective” border security.
Immigrant rights groups, such as Wisconsin’s Voces de la Frontera, have called out Trump’s effort to extend the border wall as racist and wasteful.
Voces executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz argued the president is denying people their right to seek asylum in the U.S. while holding hostage federal employees.
As of Wednesday evening, Trump and members of Congress failed to make progress on negotiations after Trump abruptly ended a bipartisan meeting while leaving open the possibility of declaring a national emergency on border security.