By Matthew Choi President Donald Trump made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room on Thursday, offering a vigorous defense of his demands for billions in border wall funding that has resulted in a prolonged government shutdown.

Trump insisted on the necessity of a physical barrier on the southern border, and was flanked by border patrol officers who also said a physical wall would help stop the flow of undocumented immigrants from coming across the border.

“We’ve never had more people wanting to come to the United States, and that has to do with the economy,” Trump said.

Trump’s demands for a border wall have prevented lawmakers from reaching a compromise on a spending bill, and prompted a partial government shutdown that entered its 13th day on Thursday. Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, joined Trump in saying not all federal employees were upset over the shutdown, suggesting border patrol agents agreed with the move in order to push through funding for a physical wall.

“They have been an absolute necessity for border patrol agents in securing the border,” Judd said of physical barriers. “We need those physical barriers, and we appreciate President Trump and all of his efforts in getting us those physical barriers.”

Data from the Department of Homeland Security suggests illegal border crossings do not make the lion share of undocumented stays in the United States, The Washington Post reported. A substantial proportion of undocumented immigrants overstayed visas or entered through other initially legal means.

Regardless, Trump claimed he has garnered substantial support for his border wall, suggesting he doesn’t intend on backing down any time soon.

“I’ve never had so much support as I’ve in the last week over my stance for border security, for border control and for frankly the wall or the barrier,” Trump said. “I have never had anything like it in terms of calls coming in and in terms of people writing in and tweeting and doing whatever they have to do.”

Still, Trump said he was open to working with Democrats, who took control of the House as Congress opened a new session on Thursday, congratulating Nancy Pelosi on winning the speakership. Pelosi has repeatedly said Democrats would not budge on granting additionally funding for Trump’s border wall.

“It’s a very, very great achievement,” Trump said of Pelosi winning the speakership. “Hopefully we’re going to work together and we’re going to get lots of things done, like infrastructure and so much more and I know they want to do that very badly. … I think it will be a little bit different than a lot of people are thinking, so I congratulate Nancy.”

Neither Trump nor White House press secretary Sarah Sanders took questions from reporters during the briefing.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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