The US Defense Department is preparing options to build a wall on the US-Mexico border in the event that President Donald Trump declares a national emergency, the latest sign that such a move is gaining support within the White House.
"The Department of Defense is reviewing available authorities and funding mechanisms to identify options to enable border barrier construction," said US Navy Captain Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman.
"As there has not been such a declaration made, it would be inappropriate to comment further on those efforts," he said.
Trump threatened on Thursday to use emergency powers to bypass Congress to pay for a wall on the country’s southern border and end the ongoing partial government shutdown that began on December 22.
Trump's declaration of an emergency at the southern border would allow the US Army Corps of Engineers to design barriers and allow contractors to build them.
Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, who commands the Army Corps of Engineers, accompanied Trump on his trip Thursday to McAllen, Texas, to tour the border, according to the White House.
“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it – I would almost say definitely,” Trump said. “We have plenty of funds if there’s a national emergency.”
US Vice President Mike Pence said on Capitol Hill on Thursday that Trump is determined to build a wall on the border.
“The president believes he has an absolute right to declare a national emergency,” Pence said. “The president is going to get this done one way or the other.”
The $5.7 billion Trump seeks would build 234 miles (376 km) of barriers. Democrats have refused to pass a government funding bill that includes Trump requested amount for a wall, calling it immoral, ineffective and medieval.
Some Republican say they oppose diverting money from the Pentagon or any other federal department to pay for the barriers.
Trump made the wall a key election campaign promise in 2016, saying Mexico would pay for it and claiming it is needed to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Democrats have called a border wall immoral, ineffective and medieval.