McALLEN, Texas, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump took his quest to build a wall on the Mexico border to South Texas on Thursday, touring a Border Patrol station, viewing the Rio Grande River and attending a roundtable discussion on security.
At the McAllen airport, Trump was greeted by raucous protesters who outnumbered sign-waving supporters by about 4 to 1.
At the local Border Patrol station, agents showed the president examples of contraband that had been seized: an AR-15 rifle, Colt handguns, a plastic bag full of cash, black-taped bricks of heroin and methamphetamine.
Marie Vega, the mother of a Border Patrol agent slain off-duty, told Trump about her loss.
"Every day I was scared I would lose my son," Vega said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine my son dying at a family outing. It was supposed to be a peaceful fun fishing afternoon but it didn't happen that way because we had a criminal illegal alien that killed him.
"We need the wall," Vega said. "A parent should not have to bury their child."
Trump is fighting with Congress over funds to build the wall, an impasse that has resulted in a three-week shutdown of the federal government.
Before leaving Washington, D.C., for South Texas, Trump again told reporters he is considering declaring a state of emergency to get the wall built.
"I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency," he said. "Probably I will do it, I will almost say definitely."
At Thursday's roundtable in McAllen, Trump said the wall is needed to provide blanket protection against those seeking to enter the United States illegally.
"They drive, they just go where there's no security and you don't even know the difference between Mexico and the United States," he said, adding that criminal gangs "don't walk through the points of entry."
"If we had a barrier of any kind, a powerful barrier, whether it's steel or concrete... We would stop it cold," Trump said.
Panelists at the roundtable included Texas's two U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, among other officials. Also in attendance were 120 U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers and agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Meanwhile, at the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros, Mexico, about 40 miles away, asylum seekers from Central and South America, Cuba and Africa waited patiently to enter the United States.
One asylum-seeking man from Africa who traveled through Ecuador, Colombia, Panama on his way to the United States was migrating to escape violence in his home country.
"Trust me, it's not been an easy journey," said the man, who would only give his first name, Ivan, for fear of jeopardizing his asylum claim.
He has been waiting for eight weeks in Matamoros for his chance to apply. He said he "really admires" Trump, calling him a "nice person." He said he poses no threat to the United States and only wants to help his country.
The border wall is a divisive issue in South Texas. Land will have to be seized from private landowners under eminent domain. It will also ruin the National Butterfly Center just outside McAllen where wall construction is scheduled to begin next month.