The comment, which came during a White House meeting on the violent MS-13 gang, was not well received in the room. Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican who represents a district with thousands of federal workers, confronted Trump about the remark and urged him to avoid another government shutdown.
“If we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown,” Trump said of the nation’s immigration laws. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”
He added: “If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety, and unrelated but still related, they don’t want to take care of our military, then shut it down. We’ll go with another shutdown.”
The government will run out of funding Thursday if negotiators can’t strike a deal.
Comstock, who spoke shortly after Trump’s remarks, said she would not back such a move and urged Trump to avoid it.
“We don’t need a government shutdown on this,” she said. “I think both sides have learned that a government shutdown is bad.”
When asked to clarify his remarks at the end of the roundtable, Trump told reporters again that he would shut down the government over immigration.
“I would shut it down over this issue. I can’t speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue,” he said, adding that if the US doesn’t straighten out its borders “we don’t have a country. Without borders we don’t have a country.”
Trump oversaw a multi-day government shutdown last month over immigration reform.
Though Trump opposed that government shutdown, he has previously said the United States could use a government work stoppage.
“Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess,” he tweeted in May.