(REUTERS) — Pope Francis suggested on Wednesday that hostility to immigrants was driven by irrational fear, as he headed to Central America, a staging area from where migrants try to enter the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked Congress to provide him with $5.7 billion to help fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall to keep migrants out – a demand the Democrats refuse to meet, leading to a partial shutdown of the federal government.

One of the reporters flying with the Pope to Panama told him he had recently seen a barrier designed to deter migrants that juts out into the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, the western edge of the U.S. border with Mexico, and described it as a “folly.”

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