In an interview Sunday, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that the ongoing partial federal government shutdown over border wall funding cannot end as long as the "radical left" insists on reflexively calling Republicans racist for supporting immigration officials.
Democrats who want to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deride Border Patrol agents for using tear gas hold too much power in the ongoing shutdown negotiations, Graham said.
His comments came as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in an appearance on CBS' "Sunday Morning," charged that the "impression you get from the president [is] that he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress so the only voice that mattered was his own."
"We’re having to negotiate with people who want to abolish ICE, not support ICE," Graham said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "We’re having to negotiate with people who see border patrol agents gassing children, rather than defending our borders as professional law enforcement officers."
He continued: "And we’re negotiating with people who will accuse all of us who support a wall as part of border security as racists. As long as the radical left is in charge, we’re not going to get anywhere. ... The goal is to fix a broken immigration system, to bring reality to this table.”
In November, President Trump defended Border Patrol authorities who used tear gas to repel a crowd of caravan migrants who rushed toward the border earlier that month.
Some of the migrants were videotaped throwing projectiles across the port of entry in San Ysidro, Calif., while others apparently tried to breach fencing. Inbound and outbound traffic there was locked down for approximately six hours in response.
"They had to use it; they were being rushed by some very tough people," Trump said. "And so they used tear gas. Here's the bottom line: No one's coming into our country unless they come in legally."
In 2013, during the Obama administration, Border Patrol agents similarly used pepper spray to fend off a crowd of approximately 100 migrants who attempted to rush the San Ysidro port of entry. The migrants in that episode also reportedly threw rocks and bottles at U.S. authorities.
Nevertheless, prominent Democrats lined up to hammer the administration shortly afterwards, as images of migrants fleeing tear gas fumes circulated. New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has also called for ICE to be abolished, called the use of tear gas “horrendous.”
Gillibrand has reportedly spent the last week calling top Wall Street executives to inquire whether they would support her in a potential 2020 presidential bid.
Again last week, U.S. authorities fired tear gas into Mexico during the first hours of the new year to repel about 150 migrants who tried to breach the border fence in Tijuana. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement later Tuesday that the gas was used to target rock throwers apart from the migrants who were trying to cross.
The White House and top Republicans have repeatedly cited the recent incidents as evidence that only a large physical barrier can reliably prevent similar incursions in the future.
“There is a deal to be had here, but it will include a wall," Graham insisted on Sunday. "And if there’s no wall in this deal, we’ll never have a deal.”
Trump on Sunday headed to Camp David to discuss border security with his advisers, leaving Vice President Pence behind in Washington, D.C., to discuss the shutdown with congressional officials. Trump said he was not confident that any deal would be made over the weekend.
"I don't expect to have anything to happen at that meeting," Trump told reporters outside the White House. The president reaffirmed that "I may declare a national emergency dependent on what's going to happen over the next few days" to construct a border wall, and declared that Republicans and Democrats are "going to have some very serious talks" beginning on Monday.
Previous discussions between the parties have been heated. Pelosi and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen reportedly got into a tense confrontation in the Situation Room on Wednesday, with the California Democrat interrupting Nielsen’s presentation on border security and illegal immigration, telling her “I reject your facts.”