Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks During a Roundtable Discussion on Border Security in McAllen, Texas

January 10, 2019

The President. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. And it's an incredible honor to be here and to meet. We just said hello to Reggie. And I've seen so much with Reggie and his incredible brother and family. And we're with you. You know that, right? You know that. And we're here to make a tour, in a little while, of the border. And we have fantastic people with us, including our great Senators from the State of Texas. And thank you very much, John and Ted. Thank you very much for being here. And our Lieutenant Governor, who's been my friend for a long time. And I also hear your son is doing a very good job.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas. He's working hard every day.

The President. I hear he's doing a good job. So I want to thank all of you for being here. And we're going to go around the table and say a few words. Attorney General, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it. What a job you've done. A big victory you had recently too.

Texas State Attorney General W. Kenneth Paxton, Jr. We did.

The President. It was a very important victory. The individual mandate. We're going to see if that holds up, because it should. That was the excuse they had, and now we'll see if it holds up. Right? But I think you're going to be in great shape.

I'm honored to be in McAllen, Texas, with the heroes of Border Patrol. And they are heroes. You know, you have so much—Border Patrol, ICE, and law enforcement generally—you take so much heat. You take so much abuse from people that don't know what they're talking about. I want to just say that you have a friend with this administration, and you have a friend with me. Nobody does a better job. Nobody does a better job.

And I have to add that you have no idea how much you're loved by the public. Maybe not by the fake news, but you're loved by the public. [Laughter] Beyond belief. And that includes my friend Brandon. And, Brandon, thank you very much for being so great. You've been getting the word out, how important it is—border security. The wall or the steel barrier, they can have any name they want, but we have to have it. And it's going to happen.

But law enforcement and ICE and Border Patrol, incredible job you're doing. The public loves you. The public—not like; they love you. And I just hope that none of you run for President, because that—you may be the one people—person that we have a problem with. Because you are highly respected in our country and beyond our country. We know what you do with MS-13. We know what you do with the gangs. We know what you do with crime. And we also see what you do on the border.

Boy, I'll tell you what, it's tough stuff. But it could be a lot easier for you, and you could be spread a lot differently, if we had the walls. And we'll get it. We'll get it. I think we're winning the battle in a very big way.

So I just want to thank you all, in particular, for being with us. Thank you very much, fellas. Thank you very much. Really incredible.

I want to thank, also, Secretary Nielsen and Commissioner McAleenan for being with us. We made the trip down from Washington. And again, Senator John Cornyn has been an incredible champion of what we're doing and a very popular man in Texas. And I think we're running in 2 years together. And that's very good for both of us, I hope. [Laughter] I think it is. It's my honor, John, I want to tell you. The people of Texas love you.

And we have another great friend of mine, Ted Cruz. And he is a friend of mine, except for about 4 or 5 months in between. [Laughter] I was telling John that Ted and I, on the campaign, we liked each other so much. And I said, look, at some time that will end. Right, Ted? But we just—we actually—we'd do joint appearances together, and the press would say, "When is it going to end?" I said, "It'll happen." Ted would say too, "It'll happen." We didn't know it would be quite that violent. But then the friendship is at least equal to what it was.

And I just want to congratulate you, because I was here; we had that arena with about 22,000. That was the Houston arena. That was an incredible night, right? And we had, I think, 109,000 or 106,000 people wanting to come. They had thousands outside. And that was a few weeks before the election. And I said: "I think he's going to win. I think he's going to win nicely." And I want to just congratulate you. That was not easy. And now he lost, and he wants to run for President. And I said, "I thought you had to win to run for President." Right? But you did a great job, Ted. We appreciate it.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who's led some incredible cases. Ken, thank you very much. And Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who's been, again, a friend of mine for a long time. I also want to thank the Governor. He's going on Fox tonight, and he sends his regards. And we're going to either see him later; he's coming into Washington. But the Governor, who just had a great campaign also, he's been fantastic and a big believer in what we're doing. So say hello to him, and I'll speak to him later.

Thanks also to Brandon Judd and the National Border Patrol Council. So Brandon, I've known him from the beginning. And almost before I announced, he was for my ideas and he was for us. He was for me. And I appreciate it. And I appreciated all your guys coming up last week. They had a big impact. We said to them, "What do you want?" Who knows better than them? He knows better than all of us put together. And that group was fantastic that we had in Washington just a few days ago. And they went on television, and anybody that listened wouldn't even have a doubt about it. So, Brandon, thank everybody. We appreciate it very much—done a fantastic job.

The Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley Sector—who is from the sector? Do you have any specific guys here from—and ladies?

Participants. [Inaudible]

The President. Quite a few. Now, are you tougher than the rest? Are you just tougher than the rest? I don't know. Maybe. But I heard special—I heard special——

Participant. Our Acting Chief, Raul Ortiz.

The President. Oh, there they are. How are you? Come on over here. Come here, man. Come here.

[At this point, the President stood and shook hands with Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz.]

Acting Chief Ortiz. Nice to meet you, Mr. President. The President. Thank you. That's fantastic. And I've heard so much about all of you. And we're going to spend a little time, in a little while, together. I don't know if we're walking or flying, but either one is okay with me. We're going to see a lot. But thank you for being here.

In a few moments, the American people will hear directly from our frontline border agents about the tremendous flood of illegal immigration, drug trafficking, human trafficking—a phenomena that has been going on for a thousand years or more, and that you'd think was something that modern society wouldn't have. And I hate to tell you that because of the internet, it's worse than ever before. Human trafficking, it's a horrible thing. And much of it comes—it's a world problem, not a U.S. problem only.

And they come across the border, and it's a bad thing. And they drive. They just go where there's no security, where you don't even know the difference between Mexico and the United States. There's no line of demarcation. They just go out, and where there's no fencing or walls of any kind, they just make a left into the United States. And they come in, and they have women tied up. They have tape over their mouths—electrical tape. Usually blue tape, as they call it. It's powerful stuff. Not good.

And they have three, four, five of them in vans, or three of them in back seats of cars. And they just drive right in. They don't go through your points of entry. They go right through. And if we had a barrier of any kind—a powerful barrier, whether it's steel or concrete—if we had a barrier, they wouldn't be able to make that turn. And they wouldn't even bother trying, because they can't go through the points with people. So we would stop that cold. We would stop it cold. And they can't fly in, obviously—for obvious reasons. So we'd stop human trafficking in this section of the world. I think it would stop it 90, 95 percent. A tremendous percentage would stop.

And you also have the criminal gangs coming in. They don't walk through the points of entry. They come where nobody is around. And you're talking about hundreds and hundreds of miles. Two thousand miles. But we need 500 miles of border.

One of the things that has happened is—and I was explaining to the two Senators and to Dan in the car—that one of the things that really is happening is, without saying it too loudly—and I told them. And Dan said, "Could you repeat that story?" When I say Mexico's going to pay for the wall, that's what I said: Mexico's going to pay. I didn't say they're going to write me a check for $20 billion or $10 billion. No one is going to write a check. I said they're going to pay for the wall.

And if Congress approves this incredible trade bill that we made with Mexico—and Canada, by the way—but with Mexico, in this case, they're paying for the wall many, many times over. And Dan said: "Would you do me a favor? Say that." And I do say it, but the press sort of refuses to acknowledge it.

When I say Mexico is going to pay for the wall, that's what I mean. Mexico's paying for the wall. And I didn't mean, "Please write me a check." I mean very simply: They're paying for it in the trade deal. And sometimes I'd say that.

So, hopefully, people will start to understand. Now, if the deal doesn't get approved by Congress, which would be hard—because it's so much better than NAFTA; NAFTA was a horrible trade deal. One of the worst ever made. It really hurt our country. But now we have the USMCA, and it's a great deal. And I think that you're going to see some tremendous improvement for the farmers and for the people of Texas. So law enforcement professionals at DHS, the men and women in this room, have told us what they need to secure our border. These are the people we went to. It's not only the wall or the barrier; it's the equipment for seizing the drugs. We have tremendous equipment today. It's expensive, but tremendous equipment that, when you do drive through one of the ports of entry, we have equipment that will be able to detect the drugs. And it's the finest in the world, and we're getting it ready. It's part of what we're asking for. It's not only the wall.

And we've taken their recommendations straight to Congress, but Congress, as you know—the Democrats are holding us up because they don't want it. They think it's good politically. I think it's a disaster for them politically. But I'm not doing it for politics; I'm doing it because it's right. I'm doing it because it's right.

And before, when I left Washington, I said they can't have a problem with crime, because the people that are coming in—the criminals, the gangs, the traffickers, the drugs—it's all crime. And the only way you're going to stop it is the way these people are strongly recommending that it be stopped, Brandon.

So, hopefully—I hear we're making a lot of progress. I even hear certain Members of the—of Congress, the Democrats, are saying: "We better get this thing going. This isn't working out too well for us." Because nobody is going to win the battle of strong borders and no crime, as opposed to open borders and crime doesn't matter. Because that's what they're saying: Crime doesn't matter.

We have people that have been so horribly hurt—families that have been so horribly hurt by people that just come in like it's—like just come into the United States, do whatever they want. In many cases, they leave and then they'll come back. Or in many cases, they stay. And we've done a very good job at the border, considering we're not given the right laws. We have laws that are so bad. They're archaic, and they're horrible. And we don't have the barrier.

So our plan includes drug detection technology at our ports; more officers and agents—far more; more beds to house the inflex of—the influx of unlawful migrants; medical support; closing the disastrous loopholes that incentivize child smuggling—the single biggest victims of what is happening at our border: our children. They're being used by the coyotes. They're being sold left and right. People are grabbing them to get in because our laws are really lousy. And if you have a child with you, it's easier to get in. These people know it better than anybody, far better than the people in Washington.

And I think the biggest victims are children and women. Women would be right there with the children. These are the victims. And it's women mostly in terms of the smuggling and what's going on with that. So we're going to take care of this problem. And to think anybody can even think about fighting it is ridiculous.

So we're going to build a powerful steel barrier. They didn't want to use concrete. I said: "Okay, I'll use steel. It's stronger." It's also more expensive, by the way. But it's stronger. I'll use steel. So we'll call it a steel barrier. Now people should be happy. They said, "Concrete—we don't want a concrete wall." I said, "That's okay, we'll build a steel wall." I like it better, if you want to know the truth, Ted. And we'll call it a barrier instead of a wall. And I'm okay with that too. I don't care what you call it, but it's got to be there.

Democrats have refused to listen to the border agents, and they say this is a manufactured crisis. That's their new sound bite. All over, I turn the television. You know, I call it the opposition party. It's called the fake news media. And what happens is, every network has: "Manufactured Crisis." This is a—every one of them. It's like they send out to everybody, "Let's use this sound bite today." So it's a manufactured—but it's not.

What is manufactured is the use of the word "manufactured." It's manufactured by them, every single of the negatives. But they're not winning, because it's common sense. It's common sense. They say a wall is medieval. Well, so is a wheel. A wheel is older than a wall. [Laughter] And I looked, and every single car out there, even the really expensive ones that the Secret Service uses—and believe me, they are expensive—I said, "Do they all have wheels?" "Yes." Oh, I thought it was medieval. The wheel is older than the wall. You know that?

And there are some things that work. You know what? A wheel works, and a wall works. Nothing like a wall.

The Government shut down because Democrats will not fund border security. Plain and simple. And again, more than just the walls. Their open borders agenda threaten all American families, including millions of legal immigrants throughout our Nation.

In the last 2 years alone, our courageous ICE officers, many of whom are with, arrested criminal aliens charged with or convicted of 100,000 assaults—this is in the last year—30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings.

We're deeply moved to have with us Reggie Singh, whose brother Ronil, Ronil Singh—incredible guy. I mean, I watched, and I've rarely felt worse in watching news of our Nation than watching your family and the love that you have for your brother. I could see that, Reggie, the way it came through. It came through loud and clear.

And there are so many other people who have the same. Nobody covers them. You know, when they talk about how unfair, how this, how that—nobody talks about how unfair it is to the victims of these brutal killings. And by the way, over the years, there's thousands of them. I don't mean hundreds. I don't mean in the teens. I mean thousands of them. And these officers can all tell you about them.

And I'd like to, if I could—because I watched a family, right around Christmastime, and I watched them suffer. And I'd like to ask if, Reggie, maybe you could say a few words about your incredible brother, the job he was doing. He was so beloved by the people in the department and beyond the department. And maybe you could say a few words about your brother. Please.

Reggie Singh, brother of deceased Newman, CA, Police Officer Ronil Singh. So, Ronil Singh—we are originally from Fiji Islands. He always wanted to be in law enforcement. So, legally, we migrated to America to fulfill his dream to join the law enforcement. After—English is our second language. He worked on that, got his education, applied for a law enforcement agency. And he was asked to get his citizenship. He worked towards that. And he became a cop—K-9—corporal K-9.

And the way he was killed, what my family is going through right now, I do not want any other family, law enforcement person to go through that. Whatever it takes to minimize, put a stop to it, my family fully supports it.

At 33 years old, Ronil Singh was cremated, and I had to pick up his remains. It breaks my heart. And no one should ever, ever go through that. Looking at that 5-month-old baby looking for his dad, no one should ever go through that on Christmas Day.

That's all. That's it. Participant. Bless you.

The President. Thank you. So we're with you. And you know that, right?

Mr. Singh. Yes.

The President. That was a tough one too. That was a tough one for a lot of people, not only the family. For a lot of people in this country, that was a tough thing to watch.

Also with us, Marie Vega, whose son, Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega, Jr.—who is another person who was loved by so many in the department, on the Border Patrol. We had so many people talking. They're still talking so much about him. It happened in 2014. He was out fishing with his wife, his parents, and his kids.

And, Marie, I'd like to maybe have—say a little bit about your son, because he is so loved and respected, still, in this room. Please. Thank you. Thank you.

Marie Vega, mother of deceased Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega, Jr. My name is Marie Vega. We have two sons, my husband Javier and I. I'm very proud of both of them. Both of them marines. Harvey, at a very young age, expressed a love for law enforcement. And like, you know, the parent that wants the child to grow up and be something, and be a productive human, we supported him. And he showed interest in the police force. Numerous times he rode with the police officers around our town—surrounding towns.

[Ms. Vega continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

We need the wall. And when I say we need the wall, I don't mean just build the wall. There's other things that we need to do also. We need to enforce immigration laws. We need tougher judges. We need the wall itself. Our Border Patrol agents need to have what they should have—the equipment, the materials they need to do their job.

The President. Thank you very much. And you're a hundred-percent right. Thank you.

[The President hugged Ms. Vega.]

The President. He's very proud of you right now. Thank you very much, Marie. What Marie said is right: more than just the wall. We have to give these incredible people the tools to work with. We're not doing that. Politicians in Washington are saying, "Oh, you don't"—they don't know the first thing about—they've never been here. They don't know the first thing about what we're talking about.

So we're going to hear from a couple of our landowners, a couple of the folks that live in the area and areas that we're discussing. I think I'd like to start off with our Texas leaders—and they are indeed leaders—and say a few words about what we're here for and what we support and what's going to happen. And we have no choice.

And maybe we'll start with John Cornyn, Senator Cornyn. Say a few words, please?

Senator John Cornyn III. Well, thank you, Mr. President, for being here and for hearing firsthand from not only the people who suffered at the hands of the crime that occurs as a result of people who don't come here to achieve their American Dream, but people who come here to cause death and destruction and human misery.

[Sen. Cornyn continued his remarks, concluding as follows.] And as you point out, the human tragedy associated with human trafficking, sex slavery, modern-day slavery, all of that is associated with our inability to control the way we need to control our southern border.

So thank you for being here.

The President. Thank you.

Sen. Cornyn. Thank you for your concern. And I want to particularly thank Mr. Singh and Ms. Vega for their willingness to come and tell their story and their courage.

The President. Thank you, John, very much. Senator Cruz?

Senator R. Edward "Ted" Cruz. Well, Mr. President, welcome back to Texas.

The President. Thank you. Thank you, yes.

Sen. Cruz. Glad to welcome you to the Valley. And one of the things you said a minute ago about the men and women here of Border Patrol and ICE is, you referred to them as heroes. And that is exactly right. These are brave, courageous leaders. I've been out on midnight patrol with the agents here in the RGV Sector. And they have a difficult job that they do each and every day. They risk their lives.

[Sen. Cruz continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And so thank you for highlighting this crisis. When we see politicians go on TV and say the border is secure and there is no crisis, they are ignoring reality. They're ignoring the lives that are jeopardized each and every day.

So thank you for leading this fight, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you very much, Ted. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.

Dan, if you could say a few words. Also, I'd like to have somebody get up and give us, just for the media, a little definition of exactly what's in front of us, because it looks pretty brutal. This is not a manufactured deal, as you say. This is the real stuff. And this is nothing compared to what they have. This is actually nothing compared to what they have.

So is somebody going to be able to explain this to us quickly?

Participant. Yes.

Hidalgo/Pharr/Anzalduas Port of Entry Port Director Carlos Rodriguez. Yes, I'm Carlos.

The President. Good. Carlos, please, go ahead. Please. Thank you. Thank you, Carlos.

Director Rodriguez. Mr. President, welcome to South Texas. I'm Carlos Rodriguez, and I'm the Port Director for the Hidalgo/Anzalduas Port of Entry.

Before you, you see some narcotics that have been seized by the men and women of CBP. As you can see right here on the two tables to my far right and left here, these are 117 kilograms of methamphetamine and 12 kilograms of heroin that were seized in a commercial conveyance that was making entry at our port of entry.

[Director Rodriguez continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

You also have a .50-caliber rifle. During the inspection at the port of entry, officers, with the use of NII equipment, or X-rays, were able to detect a compartment. That compartment was found in the back seat of a vehicle. Subsequently, with the assistance of our Homeland Security investigative partners and Air Marine, there was a surveillance that was conducted on the vehicle when it went to a undisclosed location. From that location, a traffic stop was conducted, and the .50-caliber rifle was found, sir.

Now, these three guns that you see, they're gold-plated handguns and with diamonds encrusted.

The President. Okay. I think that says it all. And this is just all recent. This is all very recent. They didn't have to go very far. This is all very recent. Okay?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection McAllen Station Patrol Agent in Charge Melissa A. Lucio. Good morning, Mr. President, and welcome to the McAllen Station. I am the Patrol Agent in Charge here at McAllen Station, and we're very pleased to have you here—$362,000. This was a multi-agency seizure. It actually was detected by a Weslaco Border Patrol Station K-9 handler.

What ended up happening: There was a suspected currency smuggler who came to a traffic stop, and resulted in further investigation. He gave us consent into his house. K-9 came in, searched, and this was caught. This suspect was suspected also of marriage fraud. He was an overstay. He also had multi-thousands of dollars of financial transactions, all illicit activity—$362,000 of many.

The President. Wow. That's something. And the dogs are incredible, aren't they?

Agent Lucio. They're a great tool.

The President. In terms of finding the drugs, but also they find money and drugs. They find drugs.

Agent Lucio. They also find people.

The President. And they find people.

Agent Lucio. People that are hidden away.

The President. Yes, it's pretty incredible.

Agent Lucio. And when we get a chance, I have some other things that I would like to call to your attention.

The President. Sure, go ahead.

Agent Lucio. Yes, absolutely.

I'll start it from here. Sorry, sir—if you will. So Falfurrias checkpoint, which is north of here, two suspects that were being smuggled in the trunk of a car. It just so happens, after records checks were run, one of the subjects actually had an Interpol hit. He was actually wanted out of the Spain for murder.

[Agent Lucio continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

This is technology that we have here in the McAllen area—making use of. That group is actually along the Rio Grande, but on the Mexican side, getting ready to cross the United States. That technology is so important so our agents have time to go over there and deter that traffic. We've got large groups coming in.

And sadly, this is a deceased subject. Somebody who probably was trying to cross the Rio Grande, who didn't make it. And he died. He drowned. The President. Thank you.

You want to go ahead?

Agent Lucio. Right here, two juveniles from Mexico trying to smuggle over a thousand pounds here, again, in the McAllen area. They actually rammed the vehicle. They rammed into a Border Patrol agent. That's an assault. They were trying to get away. Two juveniles, over a thousand pounds of marijuana.

[Agent Lucio continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

The American people need to understand, like you stated just now, we know better. We know what the cost is to families—to our families, to our communities, to the country. We're here to serve and we're here to protect not just ourselves and everybody in the country, but even the people who are being taken advantage of.

The President. That was a great presentation. Thank you. Thank you very much. Very important.


Lt. Gov. Patrick. Mr. President, I wanted to share with you that our State troopers seized 94½ pounds of fentanyl last year, which, on the street, breaks down to 21 million lethal doses. Twenty-one million lethal doses. And we talked about our opioid crisis.

[Lt. Gov. Patrick continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

On the other side of the border here, about 10 miles way, Mr. President, there's a city of a million people—Reynosa—without a police force. Every night, running gun fights on the streets between the Mexican marines and the cartels. Just 8miles from here. And anyone who says we don't need a fence or a wall or a barrier or more law enforcement, they're deceiving the American people.

So you're right, Mr. President, and we're with you.

The President. And they say it's immoral. What's immoral is all the killing that's taking place by people just walking across.

Lt. Gov. Patrick. What's immoral, sir, is deceiving the American people. That's immoral.

The President. They are. They are. And they know better. And they all know it's an indefensible position. And even people that aren't into it like we are, where we're studying it and working, and we want to end it, and we can't end it—everybody knows that what we're saying is right. They can't——

Lt. Gov. Patrick. And the economic impact to the country and Texas. We have a million students who aren't proficient or don't speak English. And these are good people that want to come here, but there's a tremendous cost to the taxpayer. That's about one out of every five students. The health care cost and the humanitarian cost. No one should have to die trying to come to America. And the Democrat opposition is creating that situation.

The President. Yes. Okay, well, I want to thank you.

Lt. Gov. Patrick. Thank you for coming.

The President. And I think a lot of people are getting it now, because it's very simple. It's not complex. If we don't have a barrier, a very substantial barrier of some kind, you're never going to be able to solve this problem. And everybody gets it—whether you're educated in this world or not educated in this world. You don't have to be at all. They all get it.

And that's why you see Congress now—Democrats in Congress are coming out and saying, "Hey, we don't like this subject." There was just a big article—I won't give your competition the publicity—but there was a big article in a very important media outlet that just came out where a lot of the young Democrats just elected to office are breaking up and they're saying: "Hey, wait a minute, this—our position," meaning, the Democrats' position of no barrier and no wall, "is indefensible."

And it's going to happen. It's going to happen more and more because it's common sense.

Mark, would you say something, please? You've done a great job.

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. Well, Mr. President, I'd like to say that, as you well know, the Department of Defense has fully supported the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol with thousands of servicemembers from multiple components. And we continue to lead forward and willing to support in the mission as we look ahead.

The President. And I called on you, and I called on the Department of Defense to come down and help, because we have caravans forming. We have another one forming, believe it or not, in Honduras.

And we pay them million—tens of millions of dollars. They do nothing for us. They do nothing. And if you think that country is trying to stop, don't believe it. Okay? And that goes for Guatemala. That goes for El Salvador. If they want to stop it, they can stop it.

But they form, and then they come in through Mexico. They break in. And you saw what happened. They broke in because they didn't have the wall. And I think they're thinking about building a wall on their southern border now.

But I want to thank the military. They've been incredible. They came up, and from day one, they worked. Nobody has seen anybody work like that. And they put the—essentially barbed wire, but it's called barbed wire times 10. And it was very effective, to put it mildly. Very effective. Without that, we would have been—it would have been a stampede right into our country.

So I just want to thank the military. I know you're still working with us on it. And I'm—unfortunately, I have to tell you that they have another one forming. And we'll handle that as it happens.

And we're working with Mexico. We appreciate that. But we're working with Mexico very much.

Attorney General, please say a few words.

State Attorney General Paxton. Sure. And thank you so much for coming to the border. So many people in Washington talk about the border as if they know what's going on, and they don't come down here. So thank you.

Also, thank you for your vision, your persistence, your willingness to stand up, I think, like no other leader we've had, President or non-President. You've done more for border security, to push this forward.

[State Attorney General Paxton continued his remarks, concluding as follows.] And finally, I wanted to say something about your comments about human trafficking. I started a human tracking unit my first year in office. And I did it because—largely because of the border. We have the second highest human trafficking rate in the country. Over 300,000 people are victims of that crime every year. That's the research. Houston is the worst city in America. And so we're addressing that. And border security will clearly have a positive impact on those horrible and horrific statistics that are affecting our women and our children.

So thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. And thank you very much. And what you're saying is interesting, because you'll have a wall or a barrier, and then you won't. And what they do is they walk up, can't get through. They come in and they eventually find an opening. And it's the openings where they come in. And we don't want to have the openings. We're going to have gates where they come in legally. But other than that, we don't want to have openings.

And you'll see the crime rate in this country go way down. And we're already doing very well in terms of crime rate, but it's not being helped by what's going on. We could make it a lot better. So I appreciate it very much. Thank you very much, Ken.


National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd. Absolutely. Mr. President, I came here, and this big gentleman right here, he said he didn't like that .50-cal pointing at his head. [Laughter] He played football——

The President. [Laughter] That's right.

Mr. Judd. He played football at the University of Missouri. I told him it wouldn't even put a dent in him. So—[laughter].

The President. That's right. He might be able to handle it. I don't know.

Mr. Judd. He was the right person to put that—[inaudible]. [Laughter]

I appreciate the leadership that you've provided. I appreciate the access that you have given our Border Patrol agents to our leaders like Secretary Nielsen. Nobody has ever come down and spoken to our agents as much as Secretary Nielsen has. And we appreciate that. We appreciate the leadership Commissioner McAleenan has provided and the access that you have allowed our agents with these individuals.

[Mr. Judd continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

That's how physical barriers work. They work, and we appreciate the leadership that you're providing in order to get us those things that we need, such as personnel, technology, and the infrastructure, which is barriers. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you very much. And, Brandon, it's been—you just sit here listening—it's, like, not a contest. There's no two sides or anything. And all they're doing is looking at 2020. And they figure they can't win, maybe they can do this, or they can come up with some other issue. I can tell you about another couple of issues they're using, and—because we've had great achievement. But I won't consider myself to have that great achievement unless we can straighten out your border. And we're working on it.

And your son and your brother will not have died in vain. I can tell you that. They will not have died in vain. It's a very important purpose to all of this. Very important. Monty, I agree, that's a very uncomfortable position. [Laughter] I don't know. I wouldn't want to be in that chair. But you're a tough guy. You can handle it.

Edinburg, TX, resident Monty Awbrey. Yes, sir.

The President. Please, say a few words.

Mr. Awbrey. Mr. President, first thing I want to say is thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come down and address the situation, that we do live on a daily basis—not only us as ranchers or anything, but all the law enforcement agencies.

Senator Cruz hit it right on the head whenever he said, you know, you got a backbone. And that's exactly why we elected you and wanted you in the White House. And we appreciate you not giving up on that.

[Mr. Awbrey continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And yes, I agree with the wall. There's a lot of farmers who—and landowners that I do know that are on the river, and they're a little upset because of the eminent domain. That brings up the question there. As far as, you know, all the acreages that they're losing with that wall, maybe there is something that you can devise with those owners and say: "Hey, you know, what? We don't want to drill right down through the middle of your property. Let's rearrange it and get a little closer to the river or something." And I think that that would probably forego—and you'll see a lot more cooperation with that.

The President. We should look at that, okay? I think—I agree with you. I think you're right, Monty. I agree with you.

Mr. Awbrey. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. And the laws are a big problem. You know, they call one catch-and-release. You catch them, and you release them. You know, other countries, for the most part, you go into the country and they say: "Excuse me. These people—get out. You have to get out. Sorry." And nobody tries to get in because they know they can't.

With us, we take them through court proceedings. We have to hire hundreds of judges. We got hundreds of judges. Hundreds of judges. You go through a proceeding. They check you in. Then they can't do the proceeding because there's 800,000 people now waiting. Eight—think of it—800,000 people. How ridiculous is this? If they set one foot on U.S. property, so to speak, they end up having to go to a trial.

So they take the name, and they say: "You can go now. Come back in 3 years. You have a trial." This is the United States law, by the way. And made worse by the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit is a disaster. Made worse by the Ninth.

If you go to the Ninth Circuit, if you're on the other side of what everybody in this room is all about—and, frankly, what most of the people in the country are all about—it's almost like an automatic loss. It's like an automatic loss. They take a case to the Ninth Circuit that's nowhere near the Ninth Circuit, that has nothing to do with the Ninth Circuit.

So we're bucking a bad system, and we're bucking a lot of things that are bad. And we're apprehending more people than ever apprehended before. But the laws are really against us, and we're doing well anyway. But we have to do much better. And we can do only better if we have a physical barrier. Because this way we don't have the—even with the bad laws, you have a physical barrier, they can't come on to the—into our country. Mr. Awbrey. If I may, Mr. President, I also—I married into a law enforcement family. Agent Jaime Zapata was the agent killed down in Mexico. You know, it was pretty hard going through that, and I kind of feel you all's pain. Jaime and I were not all that close at first. We gained—you know, became really, really good friends after that. After that happened, I don't know how, but the killers, when they got sent—or went up to DC, they were allowed to bring their entire family and put them up on the taxpayer's dollar. And in front of his parents, just paraded them around. And it was like a stab in the back, you know, for the Government that he gave his life for. And it just——

The President. When was that? How long ago?

Mr. Awbrey. Sir, that was the—that was right out last year when they finally went to sentencing. So——

The President. Convicted?

Mr. Awbrey. Somebody took the fall for it. I can't say that it was the correct person that pulled the trigger.

The President. Yes. That's—bad stuff.

Mr. Awbrey. Yes, sir.

The President. Pastor, please.

Pastor Ramiro Peña of Christ the King Baptist Church in Waco, TX. Well, thank you, Mr. President, first for coming to Texas and——

The President. Thank you.

Pastor Peña. ——to the Rio Grande Valley. I especially want to thank you for calling this what it is: a humanitarian crisis. When you use that language, it really set bells to ringing, because that is what it is. People in my profession see the suffering, the human suffering, brought by drugs, by the arms that are brought across, making our communities more violent. The trafficking of women and children especially, and boys, and young males as well.

[Pastor Peña continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And the fact that you called it what it is—it's a crisis and a humanitarian crisis. And again, the pastors that I'm here representing today salute you and thank you for wanting to bring an end to untold suffering that's taking place on our southern border.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you, Pastor. Very nice. Good to see again. Appreciate it.

Pastor Peña. Thank you.

The President. Thank you.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan. Thank you, Mr. President. Obviously, you came to the right part of the border to really bring this border security and humanitarian crisis into focus, number one, for illegal crossings, and number two, for hard narcotics, both between our ports of entry—as you saw from the briefing—and at the ports. And then the humanitarian cost.

[Commissioner McAleenan continued his remarks, concluding as follows.] And so I just wanted to say I'm incredibly proud of the agents, officers, Air Marine professionals that are serving down here, staying focused on the mission despite the challenging environment at this time. I'm very proud of the briefing from Melisa and Carlos, telling you——

The President. Absolutely.

Commissioner McAleenan. ——with their heart and soul what they do every day to protect our country and our fellow citizens.

[Commissioner McAleenan continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

Also, the technology at the ports of entry to stop the drugs, that's a critical element. And very importantly, you asked for humanitarian resources, and we can provide different facilities medical support to get our agents out of the childcare business and help protect families that are crossing and end this violence cycle. It's all controlled by violent criminals in Mexico, primarily transnational criminal organizations. And we want to combat that with these resources.

So thank you for the support.

The President. Thank you, Commissioner.

Commissioner McAleenan. We look forward to showing you more on the river.

The President. Thank you. A little while. We'll be there in a little while. That's great.

One of the things that Dan Patrick suggested, which I thought was very interesting, was give the State of Texas a relatively small amount of money and they'll build a wall themselves, because they want to build it.

Commissioner McAleenan. That's right.

The President. And I thought that was not the worst idea I've ever heard. [Laughter] Although, I still think I could do it cheaper than you. I still think I could do——

Lt. Gov. Patrick. If you could do it cheap, if you could do it cheaper, we're willing to help you.

The President. But I do like the idea, and we're going to look at a couple of ways of doing it where you guys get it up. You do things very well in Texas. And I like that idea. So we'll take a look.

And, Dan, could I ask you to say a few words, please?

Enforcement and Removal Operations San Antonio Field Office Director Daniel Bible. Yes, Mr. President. I'm Dan Bible. I'm the Field Office Director with ICE ERO for the San Antonio field office. And with the inflow of the immigrants that are coming across in these unprecedented numbers, our officers are—also are coming down to the border to support that effort to deal with the women and children.

[Director Bible continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And when we look at the family units and stuff that come across in reality, we either just release them right out the door once we take them in, if they're not in a composition that can go into one of our family residential centers. But even if they get to one of our family residential centers, due to some of the legal decisions and stuff, we have 20 days to release them from there. So essentially, they're being just released to the street as well. So pulling our officers away from doing criminal enforcement——

The President. These are the laws. Yeah. Terrible.

Mr. Bible. ——to just basically release family units, it's kind of deteriorating the system and also reducing the secondary—or the secondary—how would you put it?—barrier for them to keep coming, right? I mean, once you get past—if all my agents are at the border doing this, they kind of get a free run in the communities, which make the communities less safe.

The President. You're right. And it's not just what's going on at the border. That's really almost a lesser problem. They get through the border and then they filter out throughout the whole country. And you have MS-13 all over Long Island and all over other places. We're getting them out by the thousands. The ICE folks are doing incredibly at getting them out. And they are rough and tough, but the—I will tell you a little secret: ICE is a lot rougher and a lot tougher and a lot smarter. But still, it's a lot of people. A lot of people that they have to get out.

But it's not the crime at the border, which has got its own problems; it's what happens once they get through the border and they're dispersed or they disperse themselves throughout the country. And all of that crime is because of it.

Yes, John.

Sen. Cornyn. Mr. President, just before you—before we end tonight, I suspect we'll hear from Secretary Nielsen, who's doing a great job at DHS, but I just want to acknowledge all the local officials here—the mayors and the country judges and others—who supports these men and women who wear the green and blue uniforms.

The President. It's great.

Sen. Cornyn. And who basically end up having to try to manage this humanitarian crisis that floods across the border because of the gaps in our law that you've already described.

And you know, we are set up as a country to deal with legal immigration. We applaud legal immigration. But illegal immigration, particularly when it floods over here, we're just not prepared for, especially with these large caravans. And it's created a humanitarian crisis that these men and women, who are local elected officials, have had to deal with.

So I wonder if you wouldn't mind if we asked them to stand——

The President. Please. Please.

Sen. Cornyn. ——so we can recognize them and thank them for what they're doing. [Applause]

The President. That's great. Thank you very much. Thank you, John, very much.


Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen. Well, sir, I think everyone here today said it so well. What I would tell you is it's not status quo. It is a crisis. It's a humanitarian crisis. It's clearly a security crisis. For those who would like to put their heads in the sand and pretend that it's, quote, unquote, "manufactured," it's not only an insult and deeply disturbing to those that have lost loved ones, but it's an insult to our country, sir. This is a crisis.

[Secretary Nielsen continued her remarks, concluding as follows.] So I hope today they're watching. I hope they take a cue from you, they decide to be leaders, and they do what this country needs and help us secure it.

The President. Well, thank you, Secretary. And you're doing a great job. And you're working hard, I will tell you that. She's working hard. Every time I speak to her, she's in a different location, usually along the border. And, Commissioner, you and the Secretary, and everybody else, we appreciate it very much.

And we're getting there. I think we're making a lot of progress. And I have to say that my sacred duty—most sacred duty as President is to defend the people of our Nation. That's whether it's from foreign nations or along a border. It's all defending our people and defending them properly and strongly and really rightly and justly. And that's what I'm doing.

And it would be a lot easier for me not to do this. It would be a lot easier not to say anything and let this go on. This should have been taken care of 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago. It should have been taken care of. I've seen all the speeches made by all the Presidents and a lot people that worked under the Presidents. And you say, "What happened?" Nothing happened.

They were going to build this wall in 2003, in 2006. They were going to build it 20 years ago. They were going to build it forever. And little sections got built. And I will say, we've done a lot of renovation. And we have a lot of new wall going up where we took down wall because it was in such bad shape, and we put new wall up. We've done a lot of work, but we have work to do.

So I hope that the Democrats get together and work on a problem that is truly—it's compassion, it's everything. It's also national security, just like it's a foreign country, it's a foreign world. In many cases, it is a foreign country. We're under attack in a certain way. And we're certainly under attack by criminal gangs, by criminals themselves, by the human traffickers, and by drugs of all kinds. Much of it comes through the southern border.

And if we can do a really great job—and we will—of putting up the barriers, putting up the walls, putting up the fences, putting up everything that we have planned; fixing what's good, but isn't working so well anymore because it's decrepit, it's old, it's torn up from years of abuse and all of the things that happen—we will have done a great service.

And you know, somebody was saying that moving the Embassy to Jerusalem—I got it done. Every President talked about it for many, many years—for decades. They talked about it. They campaigned on it. In every instance, they campaigned on it, they never got it done. Same thing here. Same exact thing. I got that done, and we're going to get this done too.

And this is really the defense of our country. And this is compassion, Pastor, very much so. It's compassion. It's compassion for our people. And we don't want to have situations like Reggie had and his family, where he lost a brother who was special. Or like Marie had with your son who was—I mean, they still talk about your son as being such a great young man. We don't want that. We don't want that.

So we're working very hard. We're going to get it done. We are really on the right side of an issue. And I think actually—I know you don't see it yet, but I have feel about things. I think the other side is starting to get it. I may be wrong, but I really believe the other side is starting to understand what's going on. They're on the wrong side of a very important issue. We're going to have it taken care of. I want to thank everybody. And you're right, John, the mayors and all the representatives have done such a great job. And some of you I know. I'm sure I'll get to know the rest of you.

But especially, I want to thank Marie and I want to thank Reggie for being here. And I want to thank all of the people—Border Patrol. Brandon, thank you very much. Border Patrol, ICE, and law enforcement for being here. We are with you 1,000 percent. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:14 p.m. at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection McAllen Station. In his remarks, he referred to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Ryan K. Patrick, son of Lt. Gov. Patrick; 2018 Texas Democratic senatorial candidate Robert F. "Beto" O'Rourke; and Gov. Gregory W. Abbott of Texas. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on January 11.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks During a Roundtable Discussion on Border Security in McAllen, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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