Washington: US President Donald Trump has indicated that he could take more radical anti-immigration measures, threatening that he could "close up the country" if Congress does not fund his controversial border wall with Mexico, drawing sharp criticism from a top Indian-American Democrat lawmaker.
Trump has escalated his rhetoric against illegal immigration in recent weeks, especially in the wake of an annual migrant caravan that is seeking asylum in the US. He has also ordered the National Guard to deploy troops to the border to address what the administration calls a "crisis" there.
Addressing his supporters in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump slipped in the idea that people might "have to think about closing up the country."
"They don't want the wall, but we're going to get the wall, even if we have to think about closing up the country for a while," Trump was quoted as saying by CNN.
"We're going to get the wall. We have no choice. We have absolutely no choice. And we're going to get tremendous security in our country," he said.
President Trump has made it clear that he plans to build an "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall" between the US and Mexico.
The border is about 3,100 km long and traverses all sorts of terrain. Trump says his wall will cover some 1,600 km and natural obstacles will take care of the rest.
Trump claims the total cost of the wall will be USD 10 billion to USD 12 billion. But experts say the cost could be much higher.
Trump then mentioned the notion a second time, saying, "And we may have to close up our country to get this straight, because we either have a country or we don't. And you can't allow people to pour into our country the way they're doing."
It was not immediately clear what Trump meant by the remarks. CNN has reached out to the White House for comment, the network said.
Meanwhile, Democratic House of Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington told CNN that Trump "is absolutely out of his mind to think that is any kind of a reasonable solution for our economy or compassionate or in line with our values."
"This President has done everything he can every time he's in trouble to turn around and try to turn it against immigrants, and it really deeply saddens me," she said.
While in Cleveland, Trump criticised Democrats, including Ohio's Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, for their opposition to a border wall to stop illegal immigration.
On Friday, Trump said America's southern border is "under siege."
That tweet, however, came a day after his administration released statistics that showed illegal border crossings held steady in April from the month before and and are in line with historical trends.
Although there was a significant spike in border crossings in March, figures released by US Customs and Border Protection show that the number of apprehensions in April roughly held steady compared to that month.
Border crossings also remain in line with historic seasonal trends, and numbers are still consistent with Obama administration years -- slightly below fiscal years 2013 and 2014 but slightly above 2015 and 2016.
Trump's claim on Friday that Mexico is "doing little to help" also contrasts with some public statements by members of his administration, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who thanked Mexican President Enrique Pe?a Nieto in March for "helping to foster a close partnership" with her department, US media reported.
Trump also told supporters at a speech in Michigan last weekend that if Congress did not meet his funding demands for border security, he may support a government shutdown this fall.