Declaring “our country is full,” President Donald Trump insists the US immigration system is overburdened and illegal crossings must be stopped as he inspected a refurbished section of fencing at the Mexican border.
Trump, making a renewed push for border security as a central campaign issue for his 2020 re-election, participated in a briefing on immigration and border security in Calexico before viewing a 3.2-kilometre see-through steel-slat barrier that was a long-planned replacement for an older barrier – and not new wall.
“There is indeed an emergency on our southern border,” Trump said at the briefing, adding that there has been a sharp uptick in illegal crossings. “It’s a colossal surge and it’s overwhelming our immigration system, and we can’t let that happen. … We can’t take you anymore. We can’t take you. Our country is full.”
As Air Force One touched down in the state, California and 19 other states that are suing Trump over his emergency declaration to build a border wall requested a court order to stop money from being diverted to fund the project. But Trump, who ratcheted up his hard-line immigration rhetoric in recent weeks, declared that his move, which included vetoing a congressional vote, was necessary.
Also on Friday, House Democrats filed a lawsuit preventing Trump from spending more money than Congress has approved to erect barriers along the southwestern border. Congress approved just under $US1.4 billion ($A1.97 billion) for work on border barricades. Trump has asserted he can use his powers as chief executive to transfer an additional $US6.7 billion to wall construction.
The president’s visit came a day after he withdrew his nominee to lead US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Longtime border official Ron Vitiello appeared to be cruising toward confirmation, but Trump said Friday that he wanted to go in a “tougher direction.”
Trump, as he so often does, mixed fact with fiction when warning of the threat at the border. When complaining about the Flores legal settlement that governs treatment of migrant children and families, he blamed “Judge Flores, whoever you may be.” But Flores was an unaccompanied 15-year-old girl from El Salvador.
He also downplayed the claims of people seeking asylum at the border, declaring without evidence that many are gang members while comparing some of their efforts to find safety in the US to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
“It’s a scam, it’s a hoax,” Trump said. “I know about hoaxes. I just went through a hoax.”
As the president showed off the renovated section of the barrier to reporters, a balloon depicting Trump as a baby floated further down the border.