Speaking from the White House Monday afternoon to a group of writers, Vice President Mike Pence indicated President Trump has no plans to cave on border security and called on Democratic leaders to come to the negotiating table. President Trump also spoke at the meeting, but his comments were off the record.
"Our primary message is the following," Pence said. "The President is going to tell the American people we have a humanitarian and national security crisis on the southern border."
"From the day the shutdown took effect, the President has directed this administration to negotiate not only to open the government but to address the border crisis with funding for a wall and a broad range of resources and reforms."
Over the weekend, Pence and a number of White House officials held meetings with Democratic congressional staff members.
"We considered the meetings productive, that's not to imply that there was progress was made. We just believe it put both sides into a better position to understand one another and understand the President's resolve," Pence said. "Our position is there is a crisis at the southern border. We've been negotiating to open the government and secure the funds to build a wall."
"Democrats are refusing to negotiate. What their team said to us from go at the meeting on Saturday was, 'we're happy to be here but we are not going to negotiate until you reopen the government.' I think at one point I just cut one of them off and said, 'that's just not going to happen,'" Pence continued. "The President has no interest in kicking the can with a short term CR [continuing resolution] for DHS and funding the rest of the government. He wants to solve the whole problem."
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was at the table, echoed those sentiments and backed President Trump's argument with data.
"What we're facing is a dual crisis," Nielsen said. "It's getting worse. It's not the status quo so Congress' reaction to do what they always do isn't going to work. It requires something different. The laws are outdated and the resources are outdated.
According to numbers from Customs and Border Protection, there was a 73 percent increase in fentanyl trafficking across the southern border last year. Heroin went up by 22 percent and methamphetamine spiked by 38 percent. In addition to the drug problem, transnational criminal organizations are profiting $2.5 billion every year through human smuggling.
At the border, CBP agents arrested 17,000 adults with existing criminal records and 6,000 violent gang members were apprehended and removed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
"You can't argue with these facts. This is when I became very convinced that this is the fight the President absolutely has to be in and keep forward and win," White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner said. "If they [Democrats] want to open the government they have to explain why this isn't a crisis or explain how they can solve this crisis with less appropriations than we're requesting."
On Sunday, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee and made the case that current proposals from the administration address these issues.
"The President continues to stress the need to pass legislation that will north reopen the federal government and address the security and humanitarian crisis at our Nation's Southwest border," Vought wrote. The Administration has previously transmitted budget proposals that would support his ongoing commitment to dramatically reduce the entry of illegal immigrants, criminals and drugs; keep out terrorists, public safety threats and those otherwise inadmissible under US. law; and ensure that those who do enter without legal permission can be promptly returned home."
Democrats have previously asked for additional humanitarian funding in the form of ICE detention center beds, medical support and additional technology along the southern border to combat drug trafficking. The administration's current proposal, in addition to $5.6 billion for steel barrier funding, includes all of those requests.
President Trump will give his first primetime, Oval Office address Tuesday night at 9 p.m. eastern about border security and the ongoing government shutdown.