President Trump on Tuesday walked back his vow to close the Mexican border this week — but insisted he would still shut it down unless Democrats agree to fix America’s immigration laws.
“If we don’t make a deal with Congress, the border’s going to be closed. 100 percent,” Trump said at the White House during a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“What we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal. I could do it in 45 minutes.”
The president then repeated many of his familiar claims about immigration, including that Central American countries were sending bad people in US-bound caravans and that just “1 percent” of asylum seekers released into the US return for court hearings.
Trump’s own administration has said that about 50 percent show up.
The president also slammed judges who, he said, are responsible for letting undocumented immigrants go — even though federal authorities have been releasing them in border towns because they don’t have enough facilities to handle the soaring numbers.
“We need to get rid of chain migration, we need to get rid of catch and release and visa lottery and we have to do something about asylum and to be honest with you, I have to get rid of judges,” he said.
“You catch somebody that is coming illegally into your country, and they bring them to a court. If they touch your land, one foot on your land, welcome to being Perry Mason. You now have a big trial. It is the worst, dumbest immigration system in the world. The Democrats could change it with one meeting, everybody would agree. but they don’t want to change it because they don’t want to give the Republicans a victory. They don’t want to change it because they want open borders, which means crime and lots of other things coming in — including drugs.”
Asked about the economic impact, the president acknowledged that closing the border would be painful — but said that security is more important.
“Sure it is going to have a negative impact on the economy. It is one of the biggest trade deals in the world that we’ve just done with the USMCA,” he said, referring to a revised version of NAFTA that Congress has not approved.
“To me, trading is very important. The borders are very important. But security is what most important. I have to have security,” he said.
Trump also offered some rare praise for Mexico, which he said had begun helping stanch the flow of asylum seekers, which were expected to near 100,000 in March.
“They made a big step over the last few days. They are apprehending people,” he said.
And he once again threatened to cut aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala
“We pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador and what do they do? They don’t do anything for us. They’re taking advantage of the United States, and they have been for many years,” he said.
Earlier, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had no timeline for shutting the border with Mexico.