Trump threatens to close southern border

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A U.S. border agent walks next to the secondary wall with Mexico at Border Field State Park in San Diego, California, U.S. on Nov. 20, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to close the southern border amid an ongoing partial government shutdown, resuming his push for the funding of a long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

"We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with," Trump tweeted Friday morning.

"We build a Wall or close the Southern Border," the president said, accusing Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador of "taking advantage" of his country for years.

"No end in sight to the President's government shutdown," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois tweeted Thursday. "He's taken our government hostage over his outrageous demand for a $5 billion border wall that would be both wasteful and ineffective."

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, tweeted Thursday, "Democrats have offered Republicans three options to re-open government that all include funding for strong, sensible, and effective border security - but not the President's immoral, ineffective and expensive wall."

The U.S. Senate convened briefly Thursday afternoon before adjourning until next week, with no signs of a deal to end the budget impasse that has shut down a quarter of the federal government.

The upper chamber will convene on Monday, Dec. 31, for a pro forma session only, and then return to the Capitol Hill to renew budget deliberations on Wednesday, Jan. 2, a day before Democrats are set to take control of the House.

"We will vote swiftly to reopen government and show that Democrats will govern responsibly in stark contrast to this chaotic White House," Pelosi, the incoming House Speaker, has said in a statement.

In an earlier tweet, Trump accused the Democrats of opposing his border wall just for political gain. "This is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump & the Republicans have a win," he said.

Trump's approval rating dropped slightly to 44 percent in December amid the shutdown, a two-point fall from last month, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey, The Hill reported Friday.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday, 47 percent of Americans hold the president responsible for the shutdown, while 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress. Seven percent of Americans blame congressional Republicans.

The shutdown, currently in its seventh day, has affected nine federal agencies, forcing about 420,000 federal employees, who are deemed essential, to work without pay, while 380,000 others are expected to take unpaid leave.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which had enough funding to remain open for a week after the shutdown, is prepared to begin furloughing employees midnight Friday, U.S. media reported. Coast Guard officials said earlier this week that they need emergency legislation by the end of Friday in order to process paychecks on time for their regular release on Jan. 1.

The Office of Personnel Management issued draft letters Thursday for federal employees to hold off creditors during the shutdown. The office's guidance suggests that workers call their landlord, mortgage company or creditor to speak about their situation before sending a letter.

The Smithsonian, which has been operating on prior-year funds, said Thursday that all of its museums, research centers and the National Zoo will close starting Jan. 2 unless the stalemate is resolved.

Trump has canceled his New Year's plans in order to stay in Washington, D.C. until a deal over border wall funding is reached, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told "Fox & Friends" on Friday.

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