The situation along the United States border with Mexico is a "growing crisis", President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (Jan 8), stressing that uncontrolled illegal immigration is hurting millions of Americans.
The US president, addressing the nation on TV from the Oval Office for the first time, said Congress needed to approve the $5.7bn (£4.5bn) wall on the southern border on security and humanitarian grounds.
But the president would be accused of usurping Congress's constitutional power of the purse, and the move would be bogged down in a quagmire of legal challenges. Initially, Trump insisted Mexico would pay for the boarder wall.
Trump is scheduled to visit the southwest border on Thursday and it was not clear whether he still might choose to make the national emergency declaration.
The current closure of a quarter of federal agencies is the second-longest in history, leaving hundreds of thousands of government workers unpaid.
America would be "safer than every before" under the proposal, which includes "cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband and many other things", he said.
The number of illegal border crossings is down from 1.6 million in 2000 to fewer than 400,000 previous year.
Negotiations on wall funding could proceed in the meantime, they said.
The White House has not said why the situation constitutes a national emergency.
Donald Trump to meet with Democrats over government shutdown
While Trump had expressed little hope for the talks Sunday, he indicated that the coming days would offer a chance to show that resolve.
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In recent years, the border has seen many more Central American families and unaccompanied children turning up - sometimes in caravans of thousands of people - to seek asylum and the government does not have the facilities to take care of them.
US President Donald Trump is set to argue that an immigration "crisis" requires his long-promised wall along the Mexican border.
Major print publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post did live updates that included fact-checking, while The Daily Beast handed over its Twitter account to reporters who cover law enforcement and national security. Journal is reporting that Trump is looking for ways to end the shutdown without it looking like the Democrats won.
"If his past statements are an indication, (the speech) will be full of malice and misinformation", House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the senior Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said in a statement.
Even if Trump tried to declare an emergency to build the wall, Congress could try to claw the money back through rescissions or banning the use of funds for certain purposes.
Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer based near the border in Blaine, Wash., said those border guards - many of whom are supportive of the president's border-security efforts - may soon stop showing up for work as they begin to feel the shutdown's financial impact.
The shutdown, now into its 18th day, follows disagreement between the new Democrat-controlled House and the White House over budgeting several government departments whose funding has lapsed.
Some two dozen Republicans are expected to cross over this week and vote for the Democratic bills to re-open government, said a GOP aide who was not authorized to speak publicly.