They gathered with large photographs of their dead loved ones to hear the US President's brazen attempt to bypass Congress, which approved far less money for his proposed wall than he had sought— so he can halt the “invasions of drugs and gangs”.
Building the wall was a key promise of Trump's presidential campaign, but Democrats have slammed the emergency declaration as a "gross abuse of power" and unconstitutional.
Speaking to journalists at the White House, Trump said: "Everyone knows that walls work.
"I'm going to be signing a national emergency
"We have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people, and it's unacceptable.
"We're going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border.”
Everyone knows that walls work… We have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs invasion of people, and it's unacceptable
The President said the emergency would allow him to get almost $8bn for the wall and said he would sign the authorising paperwork later in the day in the Oval Office.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, swiftly responded to Trump's declaration.
In a joint statement, they said: "The President's actions clearly violate the Congress’ exclusive power of the purse, which our Founders enshrined in the Constitution," they said in a statement.
"The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.
The president acknowledged that his order would face a lengthy legal challenge.
But he vowed: "We'll win in the Supreme Court.”
Trump has argued the wall is needed to curb illegal immigrants and illicit drugs streaming across the southern border.
But statistics that show illegal immigration there is at a 20-year low and that many drug shipments are likely smuggled through legal ports of entry.
Attending the press conference were a half-dozen women holding poster-sized pictures of family members killed by illegal immigrants preceded Trump into the Rose Garden.
He cited their presence in announcing the emergency declaration.
Trump on Friday estimated the order could free up as much as $8 billion to construct the wall.
The funds would cover just part of the estimated $23 billion cost of the wall promised by Trump along the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
National emergency: How Trump could secure border wall funding with presidential declaration
As early as last March, Trump was publicly floating the idea of using the military for the task.
"Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!" he tweeted.
But it's Congress not the president that controls the country's purse strings and must appropriate money he wants to spend.
Among the laws Trump could turn to is Section 2808 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code pertaining to military construction.
According to the statute, if the president declares an emergency "that requires use of the armed forces," the Defense secretary "may undertake military construction projects, and may authorize the Secretaries of the military departments to undertake military construction projects, not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces."
Another law, Section 2293 of the code's Title33, allows the diversion of funds from an Army civil works project to a mission that is "essential to the national defense."
Congressional aides say there is $21 billion in military construction funds that could potentially be used for a wall in the event Trump declares an emergency.
There is about $10 billion in funds from the current 2019 fiscal year that ends on 30 September, and another $11 billion from the previous four years that haven't been obligated or contracted for a project, the aides said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the funding details.
The Defense Department has declined to provide any details on the amount of money available.
The congressional aides said their data came from the Pentagon.
As an example, the aides said there is funding for a medical facility at a U.S. base in Germany that has been partially built.
If those funds are used, the medical center could be left half built.
The aides said that while the president can decide to use military construction funds, it would likely be up to the Defense Department to determine which specific projects would lose their money.
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