People hold placards to participate in a protest in Chicago, the United States, on Feb. 18, 2019. Over 100 people gathered on Monday in Chicago to protest against President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration. (Xinhua/Wang Ping)
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Demonstrations were held Monday in Washington, New York, Chicago and dozens of other U.S. cities against President Donald Trump's emergency declaration aimed to secure funding for the highly controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Trump signed a national emergency on Friday to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall and push for his signature campaign promise. The move gave the president power to bypass Congress to get access to money, but it sparked a new round of legal and partisan battles almost immediately.
Hundreds of protesters chanted outside the White House on Monday, the annual U.S. President Day holiday, as part of the nationwide demonstrations.
"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" 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 two-month fight over the funding of the border wall between the White House and congressional Democrats has led to the record-breaking 35-day federal government shutdown which ended late January.
The emergency declaration gives the president power to bypass Congress and redirect several billions of dollars for his border wall pledge, triggering a new round of legal and partisan battle.
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.
More than 100 people took part in the rally at Chicago's downtown Federal Plaza, protesting against what they call "a phony national emergency as an end run around congress."
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a U.S. congressman from Illinois, told the crowd that at least 12 states have already joined legal efforts led by the Attorney General of California, "suing (Donald) Trump to undo the phony emergency that he has declared at the border."
"Clearly, this is one more effort at a power grab by the president who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional manner," he said.
Garcia vowed to explore both legislative and legal actions in the days and months to come.
Cassandra Boulanger told Xinhua that "I think the so called emergency is misused and exaggerated by president of United States. It is not existing emergency."
"The current emergency is our health care system, naturalization of other immigrants, offering help to all minority groups by the administration. Especially gun violence as well. So no, this is not realistic emergency," said Boulanger, a staff member of a local museum.
In New York City, hundreds of people rallied in Union Square to protest against Trump's declaration and decry Trump's proclamation as "undemocratic and anti-immigrant."
The event, sponsored by the activist group MoveOn, attracted people with signs marching the square. They chanted slogans like, "Say it loud. Say it clear. Immigrants are welcome here."
There are also a few Trump supporters in the rally.
"President Trump has a lot of policies; I'm here today to stand up for the national emergency," said Karen, a local retiree.
"There's nothing wrong with it. Other presidents have done it. Why weren't they protesting when Obama put the country on national emergency?" she said.
Liliana, a student from New Jersey, was among the protesters. "It's heartbreaking because it (Trump's policy) affects my family a lot," said Liliana, whose parents are first-generation immigrants.