President Donald Trump warned of murderers and gangsters spreading across the country during a visit to the US-Mexican border on Thursday to push his demand for a multi-billion dollar wall. Trump used the backdrop of the Rio Grande border river at McAllen, Texas, to ramp up what has already turned into a hugely messy political fight with Democratic opponents, resulting in the shutdown of swaths of the US government.
With typical rhetoric Trump said that only building more walls along the Mexican border could stop an onslaught of violent crime.
They just go where there's no security and you don't even know the difference between Mexico and the United States, he told a meeting of border patrol officers. They have women tied up, they have tape over their mouths, electrical tape.
If we had a barrier of any kind, a powerful barrier, whether it's steel or concrete ... we would stop it cold, Trump said.
Opposition Democrats are refusing to approve US$5.7 billion in wall funding, saying that overwhelming numbers of illegal immigrants do not commit serious crimes and that Trump is mainly promoting the project to satisfy his right-wing base.
Trump said that illegal immigrant crime stretched right up into the north of the country. However, widely respected studies show that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than people born in the United States.
Trump's main way of pressuring Congress has been to refuse to sign off on a host of unrelated, normally uncontroversial, government spending until he gets his wall funded.
That has resulted in a partial government shutdown now in its 20th day, with hundreds of thousands of federal employees - including air traffic controllers, the FBI and Coast Guard - going without pay.
Signaling he's ready to maintain the game of brinksmanship, Trump tweeted on arrival in Texas that he will scrap a visit to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which runs from Jan 21 to 25.
Trump had been expected to make a brief appearance at the influential get-together, attended by many world leaders, but said that opposition Democratic intransigence required him to stay home.
Trump said he was ready to expand the debate over funding for a border wall to some of the other issues surrounding the over-burdened US immigration system - a suggestion that could open the door to working with Democrats.
I would like to do a much broader form of immigration, he said in Texas.
But throughout the day, the frustrated president also repeated his threat to declare a national emergency and give himself authority to go around Congress if he can't get approval for the wall. If I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it.
Analysts say the declaration would likely be challenged in court as a case of presidential overreach, in which case the wall still could face being blocked.