Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks on Border Wall Construction and Immigration Reform Near Alamo, Texas

January 12, 2021

Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. Great honor to be here. We've worked long and hard—please sit down—we've worked long and hard to get this done. They said it couldn't be done, and we got it done. One of the largest infrastructure projects in the history of our country.

I'm honored to be here in the Rio Grande Valley with the courageous men and women of Customs and Border Patrol. And these people are incredible. They're really incredible. I've gotten to know you very well over the last 4 years. Many of you are friends from all of the work we did in designing the wall. We got it exactly as you wanted it—everything—including your protective plate on top. I'd say, "Why did we put that?" And they said, "We need it for extra protection." Climb plate. And we have everything you want. It's steel. It's concrete inside the steel. And then, it's rebar—a lot of heavy rebar—inside the concrete. And it's as strong as you're going to get and strong as you can have. But we gave you 100 percent of what you wanted. So now you have no excuses. I didn't want you to have any excuses. [Laughter]

And you set records. And we can't let the next administration even think about taking it down—[laughter]—if you can believe that. I don't think that will happen. I think when you see what it does and how it's so important for our country, nobody is going to be touching it. And you are very proud of it, and you're proud of the work you did, because we really designed it together.

We're joined together to celebrate a great achievement: the extraordinarily successful building of the wall on the southern border.

Criticism of the President

Before we begin, I'd like to say that free speech is under assault like never before. The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes: Be careful what you wish for. The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country, and it is causing tremendous anger and division and pain—far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the U.S.A., especially at this very tender time.

January 6 Civil Unrest and Violence at the United States Capitol

And now I'd like to briefly address the events of last week. Millions of our citizens watched on Wednesday as a mob stormed the Capitol and trashed the Halls of Government. As I have consistently said throughout my administration, we believe in respecting America's history and traditions, not tearing them down. We believe in the rule of law, not in violence or rioting.

Coronavirus Vaccine Development and Deployment

Because of the pandemic—horrible, horrible invisible enemy—and despite our tremendous success developing a vaccine years before it was thought evenly remotely possible. Nobody thought it was going to be possible. They said would take 5 years. "Sir, it will take 7 years." All of our scientists were saying—our advisers, "It will take 7 years, 5 years, 10 years maybe." Well, we did it just like I said we would. And we had it out years and years before they thought it was possible. And we're now delivering it to States, including your State, where your Governor and Government are doing a terrific job in getting it administered in Texas. And Florida is doing great. Some of them are doing great. Some aren't doing as well, but they have all they can handle. And we get it to them as fast as they need it, and even faster.

But they're calling it a "medical miracle." And this has been a difficult year and a very difficult election. The pandemic has made it a very, very difficult year for our country and virtually every country all over the world.

Now is the time for our Nation to heal, and it's time for peace and for calm. Respect for law enforcement and the great people within law enforcement—so many are here—is the foundation of the MAGA agenda. And we're a nation of law, and we're a nation of order. That is why we're here today, to talk about what we must do to uphold the rule of law in America and how we must continue to support our law enforcement heroes, which is exactly what you are. Do you feel like a hero? Yes, I think you do. Right? You do, and you are.

I want to thank Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Mark Morgan, who's been incredible. Where is Mark? Mark? Stand up, Mark. Great job. Fantastic. Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings. Brian, thank you very much. Great job. He's so happy with it. He said, "Sir, this really works." And most importantly, the brave law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to protect our families and our country.

I also want to thank a tremendous gentleman, a friend of mine, Tom Homan. He's a great American patriot, and he was with us right from the beginning. Right, Tom? You knew exactly—he said, "We need a wall," when they were saying: "No, no, we need drones. We need drones." I said: "Why? So you can watch the people pour into our country illegally?" And I want to thank you very much, Tom. What a professional job you've done. All of you people, incredible. Everyone here today is part of an incredible success story. This is a real success story.

When I took office, we inherited a broken, dysfunctional, and open border. Everybody was pouring in at will. Working alongside the heroes in this great outdoor space, looking at our wall, we reformed our immigration system and achieved the most secure southern border in U.S. history. It is at a level that it's never been before.

We took on the cartels, the coyotes, and the special interests, and we restored the rule of law. For years, politicians ran for office promising to secure the border, only to get elected and to do the absolute exact opposite. They even promised a wall, if you remember. About 10 years ago, they promised a wall but they couldn't get it built. It wasn't easy getting it built. Getting it financed was tough. Getting it built was even tougher. All the different chains of title and all the different things we had to go through—very, very complex and very difficult, but we got it done. But they had it years ago. You remember that better than anybody. Right? And they never got it done. They never, ever completed the task. And then, ultimately, the money was sent back to the Federal Government. Spent, but no wall was built.

But unlike those who came before me, I kept my promises. And today we celebrate an extraordinary milestone: the completion of the promised 450 miles of border wall. Four hundred and fifty miles. Nobody realizes how big that is.

I remember when I first came down, about a year and a half ago: We're under construction, and I started walking, and I'm looking at the wall, and I'm walking and walking. And I'm used to, like, a development project where you could walk a wall. You know, 10 acres, 5 acres, 2 acres, 1 acre. Then, I realized that's a long time; that's a big walk. A lot of it—a lot of the wall you have is incredibly natural. It's—you have the mountains. You have the rivers. You have some very powerful water areas. You have some areas that are virtually impossible to get by. So we didn't need walls everywhere, but where we needed them—because it's been so successful that we've added nearly 300 miles. And that's currently under construction. This was our original wish: to get these areas done where it was such trouble. And now we have it. It's either in construction or preconstruction, an additional 300 miles.

In every region that we've built the wall, illegal crossings and drug smuggling have plummeted. Absolutely plummeted. In the Rio Grande Valley, crossings have dropped nearly 80 percent. In Yuma, Arizona, illegal entries have been slashed by 90 percent. Nationwide, ICE and Border Patrol have seized over 2 million pounds of fentanyl, heroin, meth, and other deadly narcotics, saving thousands and thousands of lives. We've arrested nearly 500,000 illegal aliens with criminal records, some with very serious criminal records of the type you don't want to know about, like murder.

We removed nearly 20,000 gang members from the United States, including 4,500 members of MS-13, probably the worst gang of them all. Through the landmark reforms we've put into place, we have ended the immigration chaos and reestablished American sovereignty. Our most important reform was ending catch-and-release—not easy to do; you're dealing with Congress; it's very, very difficult—which is the functional equivalent of open borders, but even worse: It's catch and release them. It means release into our country, not into another country.

This policy was exploited by vicious criminal organizations, who understood the laws better than our people understood them for years, to spread misery and suffering and drugs all across the hemisphere.

Now, instead of "catch-and-release," we have "detain-and-remove." It's called "detain-and-remove." Doesn't that sound better? One of the biggest loopholes we closed was asylum fraud. Under the old, broken system, if you merely requested asylum, you were released into the country. The most ridiculous thing anyone has ever seen. And we were taking in some people that you didn't want to have in your country.

We instituted a series of historic policy changes to shut down asylum fraud, and that's what we did. This includes the groundbreaking agreement with Mexico known as the Migrant Protection Protocols or MPP. Under this agreement, if an illegal alien requests asylum, they have to wait in Mexico until their case is heard. They used to wait here. And when they were waiting, they would say "bye-bye," and they'd disappear somewhere into our country, and essentially, we'd never find them again; we'd never see them again.

This one measure alone ended a humanitarian crisis and saved countless lives, and especially, I have to say, lives from crime.

I want to thank the great President of Mexico. He is a great gentleman, a friend of mine. And President Obrador—he is a man who really knows what's happening. And he loves his country, and he also loves the United States. But I want to thank for his friendship and his professional working relationship.

We actually had 27,000 Mexican soldiers guarding our borders over the last 2 years. Nobody thought that was possible. And they made it very, very difficult, and that's why the numbers were able to plunge, even during the construction of the wall.

And by the way, one of the big elements of the wall that make it so successful is we can have far fewer people working. Now, they can be working on other things, other things related to crime and drug prevention and a lot of other elements they're working on, because we saved massive numbers of people. And included here we have the most sophisticated camera systems and most sophisticated electronic systems anywhere in the world.

We implemented three historic agreements with the Northern Triangle; that's Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Under these critical asylum cooperation agreements, the burden of illegal immigration is now shared all across the region. Now, when an illegal immigrant is arrested at our border, they can be sent to a neighboring country instead of into a U.S. community.

Prior to my getting here, countries wouldn't accept them. They would say, "No, no, no." I said, "Well, you've got to take them." First month—I'll never forget—these gentlemen, right here, came to me. They said, "They won't take them back."

They came. They may be murderers. They may be cartel heads. They may be some really vicious people. The countries didn't want them back. And I stopped all payments to those countries. I stopped everything going to those countries. And after it was stopped for about a month—you remember?—after it was stopped for about a month, they called. They said, "We'd love to have them back." [Laughter] And I never gave them as much money as they were getting, by the way, but they got some. It was amazing.

And you people know better than anyone: They wouldn't take them back. We'd have planes flying over, loaded up with people that we didn't want here. And they'd say, "Don't ever even think about landing that plane." And they'd take them by boat, and they'd take them by bus, and they wouldn't let them into their countries. And all of a sudden, they say: "Welcome back. We love having you." So it was a great thing. And now they do take them back. And the relationship with those countries—the Triangle—the relationship is a much better one than it was before.

In addition to our agreements with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, we have systematically reformed the regulatory code to return asylum to its original legal meaning and purpose, not a free ticket for entry. A recent comprehensive report by the Department of Homeland Security and Justice show how effective our reforms have been and how disastrous their removal would be. It would be a disaster for our country. I know they're thinking about removing them. I hope they don't do that. I hope they don't do that. It will be a absolute travesty for our country.

The report conclusively proves, once and for all, that aliens released at the border remain at large in the country and do not return home. They won't go home. And you rarely find them. It's very tough to find them.

So we have aliens released in our country, many of whom are serious criminals. And we've stopped that. Don't ever start that process again. By contrast, under our policies, 98 percent of aliens that remain in DHS custody are removed. Simply put, if you enter the United States illegally, you are apprehended and immediately safely removed from our country. Without this core principle, there is no border, there is no law, there is no order.

My administration also instituted vital public health measures on the border. In response to the China virus, under title 42 of the U.S. Code, illegal immigrants are being promptly removed to protect the health of border agents, other migrants, and local communities, and the public at large. Removing these protections would invite a public health catastrophe of epic proportions.

As you probably know, in Tijuana, various parts of Mexico, the COVID—it's got about 24 names I can call it, from "COVID" to "China virus." I can call it the "plague." I call it the "China plague." A lot of different names. But we always call it the "invisible enemy." But the invisible enemy has been very tough on Mexico, and we have areas along the border where we're in great shape because right there, because of that, that we're in great shape. But on the other side, in Mexico, they're suffering greatly with the virus. It's been incredible what we've achieved. And we didn't do the wall because of COVID; we did the wall because of security and drugs and other things. But it turned out that, in the middle of it all, along came this horrible plague. We inherited a dangerously lawless border. The people that work here are unbelievably brave. I've seen what they have to endure, what they have to go through. They're tough, they're strong, and they're great patriots, great Americans.

We fixed it, and we secured it. We empowered our wonderful ICE and Border Patrol to fulfill their oaths and sworn officers. They became sworn officers of the law. And they love their job. It's a tough job. It's a nasty job. They're not paid what they should be paid, to be honest, but we got you up. We got you up. But these are incredibly talented people; they could probably do a lot better, in terms of economics, than they do here. But they love what they do, and they love their country.

We also put into place vital measures to protect American workers, keep out terrorists, and stop the abuse of our welfare system, where they'd come up, go on our welfare system, and live for years on American welfare without ever having a job.

We also have, and we had—but we have them all the time—we have terrorists from the Middle East coming into our country through the southern border. That was before what you see right here, because it was easier to come into our country through the southern border than it was through airports or any other means. So they'd land in South America, and they'd work their way up, and they'd come into our country. And these are not people from the countries that you would suspect. These are people from some very seriously dangerous places in the Middle East. And the numbers are far greater than anybody would understand. Really far greater.

Removing any of these measures would hamstring our workers, endanger our country, and cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

No matter our party, we should all agree on the need to protect our workers, our families, and our citizens of all backgrounds, no matter who they are. In particular, if our border security measures are reversed, it will trigger a tidal wave of illegal immigration, a wave like you've never seen before. And I can tell you that, already, waves are starting to come up from 2,000 and 1,000 and 500 miles away. We see what's coming.

And they're coming, because they think that it's gravy train at the end; it's going to be a gravy train. Change the name from the "caravans," which I think we came up with, to the "gravy train," because that's what they're looking for, looking for the gravy.

This will be an unmitigated calamity for national security, public safety, and public health. It would destroy millions and millions of jobs and claim thousands of innocent lives. The policies I put into place are uniformly and strongly supported by the men and women of ICE and Border Patrol. We worked on them together, just like we did on the wall. We worked on the policies together, because nobody knows this whole world better than the incredible people right in front of me. To terminate those policies is knowingly to put America in really serious danger and to override the great career experts that have worked so hard—those from DHS.

At this very moment, smugglers and coyotes are preparing to surge the border if our policies are loosened or removed. I mean, they're literally waiting, big, big groups of people. Some of them very unsavory, I might add.

This is an entirely preventable tragedy. It's waiting to happen. The safety of our Nation must come before politics. We have many disagreements in the country, but we should all agree: the urgent need to secure our borders, protect our homeland, and allow law enforcement to fulfill its mission without political interference.

ICE and Border Patrol agents swore a sacred oath to uphold the law, and no political appointee should ever order them to violate that oath. These are real experts. They really get it. And I'll tell you who else gets it: The Hispanic population of our country gets it. Because not only did I win Texas in historic numbers, but I won border towns, which are largely Hispanic, and people were amazed to see that. And the numbers, they say, were—the Governor of Texas called—Greg—great guy, great Governor—called. He said, "You had numbers that nobody has had since Reconstruction. "Reconstruction" means "Civil War." And largely Hispanic. They understand it better than anybody, and they want law enforcement to help them—help them live safe lives.

The laws that Congress passed must be upheld. To the men and women of ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and all across DHS, law enforcement in general: You have earned the everlasting gratitude of our Nation. You have no idea how much our Nation loves you and respects you. I don't think you do have an idea, but it's true. I only hope and pray that your voice will be heard, honored, heeded, and respected long into the future.

God bless you, God bless law enforcement, and God bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you. Great job.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Gregory W. Abbott of Texas; Brian Hastings, Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent, U.S. Border Patrol; and Thomas D. Homan, former Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks on Border Wall Construction and Immigration Reform Near Alamo, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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