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Trump demands US border wall, sidesteps declaring emergency

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US President tries to get support for his border wall with Mexico

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump called on Congress on Tuesday to give him nearly US$6 billion (S$8 billion) this year to help build a wall on the US border with Mexico, but stopped short of declaring a national emergency to pay for it with military funds.

Facing Democratic opposition in Congress to the wall, Mr Trump said in a prime-time televised speech that there was a growing security crisis at the US-Mexico border.

Using blunt language in an attempt to win public support, Mr Trump said illegal immigrants and drugs flowing across the southern border posed a serious threat to American safety.

"How much more American blood will be shed before Congress does its job?" Mr Trump said after recounting details of murders he claimed were committed by illegal immigrants.

But after days of hinting he might use presidential powers to declare an emergency to get money for the wall without congressional approval, Mr Trump said he would continue seeking a solution with Congress.

He is due to visit the southwest border today, and it was not clear whether he still might choose to make the national emergency declaration.

Mr Trump's remarks came 18 days into a partial government shutdown precipitated by his demand for the wall.

Democrats and other opponents of a border wall had threatened legal action if Mr Trump issued the order.

They say he is using false claims and manufacturing a crisis to carry out his 2016 presidential campaign promise for a wall that he said would be paid for by Mexico. The Mexican government has refused to provide such funds.

During his nearly 10-minute speech from the White House Oval Office, Mr Trump said: "At the request of the Democrats, it will be a steel barrier and not a concrete wall."

But Democrats have opposed not just the construction materials to be used, but the extent of a project that could end up costing more than US$24 billion.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered televised rebuttals to Mr Trump's speech.

Ms Pelosi noted that Mr Trump had rejected bipartisan legislation to reopen the government agencies shuttered as a result of the fight over the wall, blaming his "obsession with forcing American taxpayers to waste billions of dollars on an expensive and ineffective wall." - REUTERS