The President made a prime-time televised address ahead of a visit the border later this week – as the government marked its 18th day of a partial shutdown.
Speaking to the nation from the Oval Office, President Trump said that all Americans are hurt by uncontrolled illegal immigration.
Amoung those hit hardest by illegal immigration are African-Americans and Hispanics, he claimed – although he did not provide evidence.
And Trump blasted Democrat rivals in Congress – blaming them for shutting down the government for the second longest period in history over the border security row.
But he stopped short of declaring a national emergency – which would have allowed him to order the wall to be built without needing to pass legislation.
Announcing the special broadcast on Monday, Trump wrote: "I am pleased to inform you that I will Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border".
The Oval Office broadcast began at 9pm local time (2am Wednesday GMT).
It comes amid a partial government shutdown due to a stalemate with congressional Democrats.
The President wants over $5.7 billion (£4.46bn) for a wall on the US-Mexico border.
Democrats – who hold a majority in the House of Representatives – are refusing to pay for a wall of any kind.
The speech was part of a public relations blitz by the President on the issue.
Trump also scheduled a trip to the border Thursday to highlight his demands for a physical barrier on the border – a cornerstone pledge during his election campaign.
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump had not made a decision about his threat to declare a national emergency and build a wall without congressional approval.
Asked about the possibility of legal challenges and whether the White House counsel's office had reviewed the matter thoroughly, Pence told reporters: "They're looking at it, and the President is considering it."
Trump is pinning his administration on the wall – which he believes will stem illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
He promised during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall – and the country has refused to do so.
All the major US television networks agreed to air Trump's speech.
Democrats in Congress called for the networks to grant them equal time in a joint statement issued by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
In her response, Pelosi described Trump's rhetoric as full of "malice and misinformation".
Dems say a wall would be expensive, inefficient and immoral.
Pressure to reach a deal to end the shutdown is likely to grow as its effects are increasingly felt, including possible cuts in food stamp programs for the poor.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders announced the border trip on Twitter without providing details.
The visit will likely highlight security concerns pushed by the administration as justification for the wall.
Pence said: "The President's position is: There is a crisis at the southern border, and Democrats are refusing to negotiate."
Large chunks of the federal government shut down on December 22 – halting wages for hundreds of thousands of government workers and bringing some services to a halt.
Trump said in December he would be "proud" to shut the government down over the wall and told lawmakers last week it could last months.
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