File Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Rose Garden in the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Feb. 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Hu Yousong)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of protesters chanted outside the White House on Monday, the annual U.S. President Day holiday, as part of planned nationwide demonstrations against President Donald Trump's emergency declaration aimed to expand the highly controversial U.S.- Mexico border wall.
A series of rallies were reported to have been planned this week in major cities across the country, including New York, Detroit and Los Angles, in the wake of Trump's declaration of national emergency on Friday.
"End the fake emergency now," a banner read. "We stand with immigrants and asylum seekers," another claimed.
Hal Ponder, a Washington, D.C. resident and former Congress employee, told Xinhua that he believes "there is no emergency" at the southern border and that the president is "making this up" so as to get around Congress to push for his signature campaign promise.
"It's all political. It's not real," said Ponder at Lafayette Square in front of the White House.
The back-and-forth between the White House and Congressional Democrats is distracting them from doing what's really important for the country, Dick Newman, a retiree from Annapolis, Maryland, lamented.
U.S. politicians should "work together for decency and positivity", instead of creating more divisions, Newman told Xinhua.
The emergency declaration gives the president power to bypass Congress and redirect several billions of dollars for his border wall pledge, while sparking a new round of legal and partisan battle almost immediately.
Among the hotly debated issues are the president's use of executive power and whether there really is an emergency.
White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller defended Trump in an interview on "Fox News Sunday," insisting the emergency is real.
There has been an "increasing number of people crossing" and "a huge increase in drug deaths" since 2000, he claimed.
Customs and Border Protection officers apprehended close to 400,000 people on the U.S.-Mexico border during the 2018 fiscal year, according to federal data.
That's an increase from the prior year, but less than in 2016. And recent annual figures are the lowest they've been in nearly four decades, according to local media reports.
Local media said at least two lawsuits by watchdog groups are challenging the legality of the declaration, and California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Sunday he would "definitely and imminently" file a suit.
The two-month fight over the funding of the border wall between the White House and congressional Democrats led to the record-breaking 35-day federal government shutdown which ended late January.