US President Donald Trump has said that he would “love to see” the US government shut down if Congress does not negotiate an immigration deal.
“If we don’t change it let’s have a shutdown. We’ll do a shutdown, and it’s worth it for our country,” he said.
Earlier in the day, his chief of staff said Mr Trump was unlikely to extend a deadline when legal protections for young immigrants expire.
The government briefly closed last month amid congressional gridlock.
Speaking on Tuesday to a White House law enforcement panel on gang violence, Mr Trump said: “If we don’t change the legislation, if we don’t get rid of these loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill… if we don’t change it, let’s have a shutdown.
“I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.”
Democratic leader Senator Chuck Schumer said Mr Trump’s comment “speaks for itself”.
“We had one Trump shutdown, nobody wants another, maybe except him,” the New York senator added.
But White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said that Mr Trump was “not advocating for the shutdown”.
A delicate dance
Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC Washington
Donald Trump clearly thinks he came out on top after last month’s government shutdown. Given his recent uptick in opinion polls, with Republicans rallying to his side, that’s not an unrealistic conclusion.
Now he’s leaning into another confrontation – unless he gets his desired immigration reforms and border security funding.
That cuts against the momentum in Congress towards more temporary funding measures and, perhaps, an agreement to provide a limited extension of protection for previously covered undocumented migrants, along with more money for border security.
If Congress succeeds in kicking the can down the road far enough, the odds decrease that the president will get his desired sweeping changes to legal immigration programmes. Democrats could make gains in November’s midterm elections – particularly if Daca protection is a campaign issue – and any congressional action in 2019 could be much less to the president’s liking.
Passing big-ticket legislation in an election year is always a challenge. In 2018, even the basic tasks – like approving a budget – seem a tall order.
At the moment, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are engaged in a delicate dance. The president, however, seems determined to call the tune.
The press secretary said the president instead “wants a long-term deal and he wants a deal on immigration”.
Earlier in the day Mr Trump said that the death of an NFL footballer by a drink driver – who had entered the country illegally – underscored the need for immigration reform.
Mr Trump’s remarks come as lawmakers debate a legislative plan for so-called Dreamers – undocumented people who entered the US as children.
Two days remain before expiry of a temporary government funding bill that was passed last month.
Mr Trump last year scrapped the Obama-era programme known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca).
He set an expiry date of 5 March and called on Congress to find a solution.
Earlier on Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told reporters he doubted “very much” whether the president would extend the Daca programme if there’s no deal.
Mr Kelly added that he was “not so sure this president has the authority to extend it” because, he said, the original programme was not legal.
During an impromptu interview with US media, Mr Kelly stressed that Daca permit holders would not be a priority for deportation after the deadline passes.
He also defended Mr Trump’s plan to offer permanent protections for 700,000 Daca permit holders plus 1.1 million others who could qualify.
The White House chief of staff said those immigrants “were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses”.
The Trump administration last month outlined a plan for nearly two million people to become citizens, in exchange for Congress approving $25bn (£17.6bn) for a US-Mexico border wall.
The White House on Monday rejected a bipartisan immigration plan that would extend Daca protections and increase security along the US-Mexico border, without funding a wall.
Senators John McCain and Christopher Coons had proposed a bipartisan budget bill that would grant permanent legal status to Daca recipients, known as Dreamers.
President Trump tweeted that any deal that did not include enough funding for border security was a “waste of time”.
Last month, he hinted that the protected status for Dreamers – who are allowed work permits under a presidential order – could be extended past his self-imposed deadline.
“We want to do what’s right and we’re going to do what’s right, and we’re going to solve the Daca problem,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.