President Donald Trump on Monday said he would build the wall along the southern border even if Congress approves funding for it or not.
“Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway,” Trump said at a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas.
Trump spoke shortly after lawmakers said they had reached a funding deal in principle to avoid another government shutdown set to begin on Saturday. The deal includes some money for barriers along the border.
The president said he would not sign an agreement that cuts the number of detention beds used to house immigrants caught living illegally in the U.S.
“If we cut detention space, we are cutting loose dangerous criminals into our countries,” Trump said. “I will never sign a bill that forces the mass release of criminals into this country.”
Democrats have dropped their demand to dramatically reduce the number of beds, but the deal does not include Trump’s full request for 52,000 beds.
A congressional source told AP that the deal will include $1.375 billion for physical barriers, including 55 miles of new structures near the Rio Grande Sector of the border. But the money is short of Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding.
Trump said he was told “progress is being made on the talks,” which he added he could have stayed in the nation’s capital to monitor. But he told the crowd in El Paso he wanted to be with them instead, saying “I chose you.”
Trump met Monday afternoon with top advisers in the Oval Office to discuss the negotiations. He ratcheted it up when alluding to the detention beds issue.
“We can call it anything. We’ll call it barriers, we’ll call it whatever they want,” Trump said. “But now it turns out not only don’t they want to give us money for a wall, they don’t want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers, human smugglers.”
The president’s supporters have suggested that Trump could use executive powers to divert money from the federal budget for wall construction, though he could face challenges in Congress or the courts.
Video: President Trump meets with law enforcement as Border negations stall