US President Donald Trump has delivered his first national address for 2019, saying America is “out of space” to hold any more illegal immigrants.

Trump said the issue of the Mexican border wall could be solved in a “45 minute meeting”, and did not call a national emergency to secure the $5.7 billion in funds as many political pundits had expected.

“I have invited congressional leadership to the White House tomorrow to get this done,” he said.

“Our southern border is a pipeline for vast quantities of illegal drugs ... Every week, 300 of our citizens are killed by heroin alone, 90 per cent of which flows across from our southern border.

“Over the years, thousands of Americans have been brutally killed by those who illegally entered our country, and thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now.”

Trump said the “crisis” remained the reason for the government shutdown the is currently gripping America.

“Government remains shut down for one reason, and one reason only. Because Democrats will not find border security. My administration is doing everything in our power to help those impacted by the situation. But the only solution is for Democrats to pass a spending bill that defends our borders and reopens the government.”

During his speech, Trump used the term “illegal alien” several times in reference to those attempting to cross the border, and spoke of the pain felt by those who had lost family members in murders committed by illegal immigrants.

“I have held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible. I will never forget the pain in their eyes,” he said.

“When I took the oath of office, I swore to protect our country. And that is what I will

always do. So help me God. Thank you, and good night.”

But a solution to the government shutdown may elude the president, with senior Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi standing firm in their televised rebuttal.

“We don’t govern by temper tantrum,” Schumer warned.

The Democratic duo agreed there was a need for tighter border security, but said Trump was not managing the issue effectively.

“Make no mistake, Democrats and the president both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do that,” he said.

“So, how do we untangle this? Separate the shutdown and border security arguments. There is bipartisan legislation supported by Democrats and Republicans to re-open government, while allowing debate over border security to continue. There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference.”

The pair lashed Trump for holding the televised address.

“Most presidents have used oval office addresses for noble purposes, this president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office, to stoke fear and avert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” he said.

“We can reopen the government and continue to work from disagreements over policy, we can secure the border without any effective extensive walls, we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security. The symbol of America should be the statue of liberty. Not a 30-foot wall.”

The US President and other administration officials have said the situation at the border has reached a crisis point, both on security and humanitarian grounds.

But critics say the security risks are overblown and the administration is at least partly to blame for the humanitarian situation.

While the number of illegal border crossings is down from 1.6 million in 2000 to less than 400,000 last year, the number of families coming over the border has risen sharply.

Many are seeking asylum, which is greatly straining the system.

Prior to the broadcast, Vice President Mike Pence told ABC that Trump would lay out the “real humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.”

But the White House remained coy about whether Trump would declare a national emergency allowing him to bypass Congress and order his controversial wall project to go ahead using military resources — a move that would send already heated political temperatures to boiling point.

“He’s not saying yes or no,” top adviser Kellyanne Conway told journalists at the White House a few hours before the speech was due. He’s “considering it.”

With Democrats not bending to Trump’s demands, he has refused to sign off on a broader spending bill, leaving some 800,000 federal employees and many more contractors without pay.

That partial government shutdown has brought Washington’s partisan dysfunction into ordinary Americans’ homes across the country, raising the stakes for politicians who must face their voters as the chaos drags on.

Democrats, who ended the Trump presidency’s dominance of domestic politics when they seized the House of Representatives from his Republicans in November, cried foul before a word was spoken.

“If his past statements are an indication (the speech) will be full of malice and misinformation,” Pelosi and Schumer, said in a statement.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday that he believes Trump does not have legal authority to declare a national emergency and unilaterally build a southwest border wall. Doing so “certainly could” be an abuse of power, Hoyer said.

Trump’s gambit is that the solemn setting of the Oval Office will give him back the momentum on the Mexico wall issue which helped him get elected in 2016 and has become an obsessive goal for supporters. He will follow up with a rare trip to the Mexico border itself on Thursday.

But with many Americans far from sold on Trump’s lurid claims about illegal immigrants, criminals and terrorists overwhelming the border, the speech faces its own high barrier: credibility.