The US president has made his first live TV address from the Oval Office – claiming illegal immigration at the country’s border with Mexico has become "a humanitarian crisis."
Donald Trump is continuing to demand around €5bn in federal funding to build a wall along the southern border.
The dispute over the funding has seen the US Government in partial shutdown for nearly three weeks.
In the ten minute address, the US president characterised illegal immigrants as criminals and drug dealers who put a strain on public resources and fuel the deaths of Americans by drugs.
"More Americans will die from drugs this year than were killed in the entire Vietnam War," he said.
He claimed children illegally brought into the US are being "used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs," while women and children are "the biggest victims by far of our broken system."
"This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border," he added.
"This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end."
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 9, 2019
He said the US would be "safer than ever before" under his “tremendous” border wall proposal which, he said, includes "cutting-edge technology for detecting drugs, weapons, illegal contraband and many other things."
He insisted that his plan would mean illegal immigrant children can be "safely and humanely returned back home" and claimed to have met "dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration...I've held the hands of the weeping mothers."
In their own address, Democratic Party representatives vowed to continue blocking the funding – and accused the President of “using the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 9, 2019
House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer spoke shortly after the president.
Mrs Pelosi accused Mr Trump of being "full of misinformation and even malice" – and choosing fear over facts.
She said the Democrats also want a secure border, but warned that the president’s wall was not the solution as she offered options including building infrastructure and installing new technology.
"The fact is: President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government," she said.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer after delivering a televised response to US President Donald Trump's national address about border security, 08-01-2018. Image: Chip Somodevilla/DPA/PA Images
Mr Schumer was harsher in his criticism, accusing Mr Trump of throwing a temper tantrum and using millions of Americans as leverage.
He said Mr Trump needs to re-open government while allowing the debate over border security to continue.
"Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes," Mr Schumer said.
"This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.
"The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a thirty-foot wall."
Additional reporting IRN ...