Remarks to Members of the National Border Patrol Council
The President. Fantastic. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you very much.
Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. That's great. Well, you know, I wasn't supposed to be here, but I heard Brandon was here, so I said: "Where is he speaking? Tell me. I'd better get there." Right? [Laughter]
But he was with me before I even thought I was going to run. He used to say—him and his little group, they'd say, "I hope that guy runs." And that was before I made a decision to run, actually. So you were there before the beginning, right? But I want to thank you all.
And I'll tell you, he loves our country. Your whole group loves our country. And so I heard about you being here, and I said: "If you want me, Brandon, I'm yours. If you don't, that's okay too. I can save a little time." [Laughter] But he said, "Let's have the President walk over."
I just—numbers just came out: Ninety percent of Americans are satisfied with their personal life. I don't know how you define "personal life," because that can be a very big divergence, very big definition. But it just came out in Gallup, I guess, the highest ever recorded. So 90 percent of Americans, right now, are satisfied. And that's, by far, the highest ever recorded. That tells you we're all doing something right.
Sixty-three percent of Americans are very satisfied with President Trump's handling of the economy. That's a very high number. That's the highest in over 20 years. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say they're better off financially than they were a year ago. Seventy-four percent say they will be better off in a year from now. That's tremendous optimism, which is a big thing.
And 61 percent of the voters approve of Trump's handling of the coronavirus. And you know, we did a very early move on that. We did a—I was criticized by a lot of people at the beginning, because we were the first. We'd never done it before. We closed our borders through certain areas. It's never happened before where we did that. We never closed our borders. But we did it, and we actually did it early, and we took some criticism. Now everyone is saying we did a good job.
And, Chad, you've done a fantastic job and I've appreciate it—you and your whole crew. Seventy-two percent of Republicans say that. And we're—we have a very small number of people in the country, right now, with it. It's like around 12. Many of them are getting better. Some are fully recovered already. So we're in very good shape.
And I spoke with President Xi of China, and he's working very hard on this. Look, it's a tremendous problem. But they're very capable, and —they'll get to it. There's a theory that, in April, when it gets warm, historically, that has been able to kill the virus. So we don't know yet; we're not sure yet. But that's around the corner, so that'll be a great thing in China and other places.
But we have very strong borders, and that's what we're here to talk to you about today. I thought I'd show this to you, because right now we have 122 miles of wall that's been built. And I don't know if you can see this, but it's pretty impressive.
[At this point, the President displayed photographs of different sections of the border wall under construction.] These are different pictures, different shots of the wall. This is going up. We have in Arizona. This is in El Paso. We have New Mexico going up. This is the wall going up; they're working at night, as you can see. Either that, or it's an extremely dark day. [Laughter] And that crew is—that's also in El Paso. So we're putting it up.
The panel on top—just in case people want to know, because I would have loved it without the panel—but actually, it's called an "anticlimb panel." It makes it very tough to climb over the top. It's designed in a certain way that makes it very, very tough.
So, in fact, we've had to bring in the fire departments and things to get people down. They've climbed the wall, sometimes with drugs on their back—oftentimes. And they're great climbers, but they couldn't get over the top anticlimb panel.
So if people wonder what that is, I like to say it, because it's an incredible thing. It makes it virtually impossible to climb over the top. And we had it designed many different ways. We had them tested. And this was the ultimate wall. This is what they wanted.
Here's another shot. This is a shot of a little different section, also under construction. And we'll soon have—we think by the end of the year, we'll be up to over 400 miles. And shortly thereafter, we'll be at 500 miles. And then, we'll determine if there's any other area that might need it, but we'll have covered, we think, close to a hundred percent of the area that we wanted.
Here's another shot of a section—the same section, actually, that's more advanced. And that's the way they put it up. They set it very deep into foundations and concrete. And it's steel with concrete in between. And if you've ever seen it, the bars are steel; they're hollow. And they pour concrete inside, and then put rebar in. So they have the rebar first; rebar is the steel. And they put it inside, and then they pour the concrete. And because of the tremendous weight, they have to pour the concrete after it's up. So it's a process that's pretty complicated, but pretty good. Otherwise, it would be very hard to put it up. It gets very heavy. So they pour in each one of the bars.
And the reason they want the bars: They have to be able to see through, because they want to see who's on the other side. I thought I could put up a nice, simple concrete wall. It would be so nice; I'd just get it done. [Laughter] They have to make it complicated. This project was complicated. But I said, if we're going to do it, we have to do it right.
So, Brad and all of his people, from day one, this is the one they wanted. They needed anticlimb on top. They needed see-through. They wanted it to be steel rather than concrete. Steel is much stronger, but they also wanted the durability of the concrete, which is inside the steel with rebar.
So inside there is really like a—it's probably about 8 inches by 8 inches. And it's all hollow inside. And after it's up, we have rebar in; it's already dropped. And then, we put the concrete in. They pour the concrete inside through funnels. So it's a pretty amazing process, and they're doing it quickly. They have a very quick process.
We're now going to probably bring it in. We're going to spray-paint it after it's up. It gets spray-painted black. The black makes it extraordinarily hot, especially in areas along the Mexican border. It's not known for cold weather. It's known for quite hot weather. You don't have too much snow in this area, right? Would you say, Chad? Not too much. In fact, if you had any, that would be called climate change, I think. Right? [Laughter] When they do that, I'm there. I'm a believer.
But what you have is, when that gets painted black, it becomes virtually untouchable during many parts of the season because of the sun hitting it. The black absorbs the heat. So not only would you have to be a good climber, but you're going to have to bring a hose with lots of water to water it down, and there aren't too many hoses in the area, and there's not too much water in the area either.
So it's an amazing process. This is a very tough area. This is an area that's on—this is in San Diego—and that's going up a very steep cliff, where a lot of people come through. And they won't be coming through anymore.
It's been almost 100-percent effective in the areas that it's been built, so we've built 122 miles so we're able to see. And in all of those areas where the wall has been put up, it's virtually 100-percent effective. But don't worry, we won't take your jobs away. [Laughter] Okay, Brandon? We have—we'll—what it will do, it will just be—it's going to be an additional, tremendous safety valve.
When I first started, they wanted drones. And we're going to have drones also, by the way. But drones flying around over the top of people pouring into our country, that doesn't do very much. But this really stops them.
So this, coupled with our great people from Border Patrol and also—and I have to give them a shout-out, because they get abused, and they're incredible what they do—the folks from ICE. The people of ICE are incredible. They've taken out thousands and thousands of MS–13 and gotten them out of our country. And they really are; they're incredible people, and I want to thank them too, because they work hand in hand—we all work hand in hand.
Also, law enforcement in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. The law enforcement works with you guys so much, and it's incredible the relationship we've all developed. Sometimes, they come into the office and I bring them right into the Oval Office; other Presidents didn't do that. They didn't do that. Nobody saw the inside of the Oval Office. They never discussed the building of a wall and how to build it and what's the best way to get it up. And we want the A-plus job. That's what we got: the A-plus-plus.
It also has, essentially, a form of an alarm system on it that, if somebody starts to cut it, we immediately find out who that is. They have sensitivity—sensitive areas on the wall, so if it's cut, we immediately know what's happening. We have cameras all over it too, and we have drones. So if somebody tries to cut through, we can get there very, very quickly. And it's equipped with a lot of different contraptions, including cameras.
But—so we have cameras, we have drones, we have everything. This is going to be something. It's going to be really incredible. And again, where we have it built, it has been like day and night. It's day and night.
Now, they come—it's like water. They come to the areas where it hasn't been put up. So they come, but that's when you're talking about 122 miles already. So that would mean—let's say you hit the center. That means you're 60-60. That's a long way. But it's—it's worked incredibly well.
So, Brandon, I want to thank you. It's been—it's been so incredible—been so incredible having you as my friend and having you from the beginning. You knew it was the right thing. You said, "This guy is actually going to build a wall." I always got a kick out of the fact.
And this was tough. When you want to get hundreds of millions of dollars for a wall, and you have an opposition party that wants to have open borders, and they don't want to—and I got everything from them, in all fairness. The military—we rebuilt our military. We rebuilt everything. I was able to get much more money, almost $2½ trillion dollars. Our military is rebuilt. The equipment is pouring in now. All rebuilt—planes and missiles and rockets and everything.
But when you want to get money for a wall that most of the people in the Democrat Party wanted 5 years ago—they just didn't like it when I announced that we were going to build it—they were unable to get it built. They had the money, but they were unable to get it built, because it takes talent to build things, and they don't have that talent. But we got it built. [Laughter] And I made your jobs a lot easier. Say "Thank you, Mr. President." Right?
And I'm thrilled to be here today with the National Border Patrol Council and the incredible heroes of the United States Border Patrol. You safeguard our communities like nobody can imagine, protect our families, and defend this country. And the country that we love, you defend so beautifully. And you love this country. You're incredible patriots.
It's a tough job, but most of you wouldn't trade that job for any other job. How about you? You want another job? No? Not interested, right? You love what you do. And it's tough, and it's dangerous. It can be very dangerous, but you do a job like nobody can do.
We also have to thank Mexico. We have 27,000 Mexican soldiers right now on our border. And the numbers have been fantastic, as Chad has either told you or will be telling you. Twenty-seven thousand—think of that—Mexican soldiers. And they're now guarding our border.
So I want to thank the President of Mexico, who is doing a terrific job. Not an easy situation over there. As long as I'm President of the United States, you will always have a loyal champion in the Oval Office, because I am with you like no President has ever been with you. You know that. [Applause] Thank you.
Audience member. U.S.A.!
The President. Thanks. Just like I pledged as a candidate, I have made it my top priority to support our Nation's rank and file border agents and, by the way, law enforcement—because law enforcement, all over the country, is doing an incredible job—and to ensure you have a direct line to the White House. And you have that. You have that. You've always had my back, and I will always have yours.
I especially want to recognize the senior leaders of the National Border Patrol Council, including Executive Vice President Paul Perez. Where's Paul? Paul Perez. Paul, stand up, please. Great job, Paul. Great. And Vice Presidents Hector Garza—thank you, Hector. Long time, Hector, right?—and Art Del Cueto. Huh? Art Del Cueto. We're getting better with that name, right? I also want to thank Jon Anfinsen. And, Jon, you've been fantastic. Thank you very much. Jon, stand up. Jon. Thank you very much, Jon.
I've gotten to know you guys for a long time now, right? It's been a long time, and a lot of progress has been made. Incredible. Really good numbers. Thank you all.
And thank you to Acting Secretary Chad Wolf who has stepped into that position like it was made for him or he was made for it. And I want to thank you for being here, Chad. Terrific job. A lot of power, a lot of mental acuity. You figured it out. You were there for a while, but you figured it out really well.
And Chad understands that the best way to secure our border is to listen to the men and the women serving on the frontlines. And he got that right from the beginning, as I did—as I did. I didn't know too much about it, even the wall. You know, again, I was going put up a wall. Just get it built. And then, they said, "Sir, you've got to do it right, sir." Then, I figured, you know, much easier doing it the old-fashioned way. Let's throw up concrete plank. [Laughter]
But they said, "That's not good." You know, one of the stories they say is that they were throwing bags of drugs over the wall with catapults. Right? Heavy bags—150, 200 pounds of drugs. And—but you couldn't see. So they'd throw it over. And sometimes, it would actually hit Border Patrol agents and other people on the other side because you couldn't see through. And as soon as they said that—that was thing that got me. I said: "You're right. You've got to be able to see what's on the other side."
So I want to thank all of you. And to the wives, husbands, sons, and daughters here today: Thank you for enduring all of the trauma, all of the work, all of the hours that your husbands and your wives—all of the people—go through because without you, they wouldn't be doing the job they've done, that I can tell you. Thank you very much, and thank you for being here.
Audience member. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
The President. Thank you.
And today, always, we especially want to honor the brave Border Patrol agents who laid down their lives in the line of duty. Here with us are several family members of fallen agents. Our Nation is forever in your debt. We'll always remember the courage and the devotion of your loved ones and that you've had for us and that you've had for your loved one. Please, stand up. Please stand up—those people—because you have. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Great love. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
From day one, we have fought to give Border Patrol the tools, resources, and support you need on your job. The results have been nothing short of extraordinary. Illegal border crossings have dropped 8 straight months in a row. That's a big number. Illegal crossings are down over 75 percent since last spring.
And this is despite the fact that we have the strongest economy in the history of our country. So there are times when our economy is not good. And we've had those times not so far away, where our economy is not good. It's not the same job. When the economy is not only good, it's the best we've ever had, many more people come up.
Many more people come up when you have Governors of California saying: "If you come to the United States, we'll give you free health care. We'll give you free medical care. We'll give you college. We'll give you education. We'll give you whatever you want."
I sometimes say, "We'll give you a Rolls Royce for every family." And the news said: "You know that's not true. Why did you say that?" They don't understand it. They don't get—actually, they understand it better than we think. But the fact is: We give people a lot. And when you have Governors—certain Governors, in particular—saying that they're going to give so much away, people come that never even thought of coming. So it makes the job more difficult.
But really, when you have this great economy, everybody wants it, and we can't let that happen, because things will go—and by the way, we do want people coming into our country, but they have to come in legally, and they have to come in through merit. They have to be able to help us. They have to come in through merit. They have to come in legally. It's very important, right?
The month of January saw the fewest illegal border crossings in 23 months. Chad, that's great. Last year, Border Patrol seized the largest amount of deadly narcotics ever seized. So we—that's really a tremendous tribute. Last year—think of that: Border Patrol—the largest amount of deadly narcotics on record ever was last month and last year—actually, last month, in particular.
We've achieved record prosecutions of immigration violators. And we've ended catch-and-release, such a big thing. Catch-and-release. You catch them, you take a name, they don't have an address, you take a name, and then you release them into our country—in some cases, to do tremendous harm. We don't do that anymore. Nobody thought we could do that without going through a process of needing Democrat votes, because you couldn't get the Democrat votes even for that. We still have lottery systems where people come in by the lottery, but that's being removed very quickly.
We have—it's the craziest border system, in terms of legal, not legal. Craziest system anywhere in the world. The whole world laughs at us with our court systems. Everybody comes across, they touch our land, you have to go to court. You need Perry Mason. [Laughter]
Other places, they say: "You're on our land. I'm sorry, you can't come in. You can't come in." Us, we take them to court. We have judges all over the place. It is absolutely—and we could fix it so easily, but we have no support from Democrats—as you are—very well know—because they want open borders. They want literally millions of people to flow into our country. And of those millions of people, tremendous numbers of them are people you don't want in this country. You don't want in this country. And they don't want them in their countries, and that's why they come up, because the countries push them up. But not anymore.
Guatemala, if you look—El Salvador—all of the different countries—Mexico—we're signing agreements. We've already signed agreements—Honduras. We've signed agreements. Safe third—call it whatever you want. Give it any name you want. But safe third—and we bring them back.
You know, in the old days, I think we can say, Brandon, it wasn't so easy to bring them back. You couldn't bring them back. They wouldn't take them. We could catch a murderer from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador. We bring them back, and they say: "Don't land your plane. Your bus can't come in. Your van can't come in. We don't want them. We don't want them back." Now they take them back very openly and very nicely. Is that right? Would you say that's right?
We couldn't bring them back; they wouldn't take them. They'd send them to us. They were vicious criminals, in some cases, and when they brought them back under the past administration, they wouldn't take them. So we'd end up bringing them back. Now, they take them back gladly. Someday, we'll explain how that worked. [Laughter]
We're removing illegal border crossers at a tremendous pace and making it clear that if you break our laws, you will be sent back home. And your home will accept you with open arms or open prisons or whatever it is they want to do with them. [Laughter] And we have to put some in jails. In some cases, they're so violent we have to. But generally speaking, we just don't want to have people in jails for 50, 60 years and the tremendous cost. So we generally try to get them home. In some cases, we really have to, because of the level of severity, the level of criminality.
We're building a border wall, and the wall is, as I said, going to be something very special, but that's only part of it.
So while we work together to protect our country and save countless lives, unfortunately the far left in our country wants to do things that are so bad for our country and so bad for security—so bad for households, for women.
People say, "Do you think Trump will get the women vote?" Remember last time? They said, "He'll never"—I said: "Will any woman vote for Trump? Is there a woman in the whole country?" And then, I got a tremendous number of women. They said one of the reasons I won was women. Thank you very much, by the way, women. Because it's fake news. I say "fake news," "fake polls." Whatever they can do. [Laughter]
But we got a tremendous—remember? They said, "The women have been unbelievable." By the way, Hispanic, unbelievable; African American, unbelievable; Asian American, unbelievable. The voters came out. Men—I don't have to tell you about. We got a lot of men. [Laughter] We got a lot of men, but the women wanted security. They wanted security. They don't want open borders. And the group we do so well with now is Hispanic, because they understand it better almost than anybody at the border; they get it. And they know what we're doing is the right thing. We're not playing games.
In San Diego, they were begging us to build a wall, because it was being overrun—a certain section, wealthy section. But it was being overrun by illegal immigrants pouring into the neighborhoods—and dangerous. And they were—you have no idea. They were begging us. And I said: "You know, we're going to do it now, but we probably shouldn't because if we don't, they're going to be promoting—'Let's go. We've got to build the whole thing.'"
But we built—it was approximately 18 miles, right? Eighteen miles of wall in San Diego. As soon as it was built, they said, "We don't want the wall." By the way, all of their problems went away. They actually did want the wall. But they said: "We don't want the wall. We don't want the wall." They started playing games.
So I said, "You know what, we're going to take the wall down, and we'll move it over to New Mexico." They said, "No, no, no, don't do that." So we haven't heard from them any longer. [Laughter] We haven't heard—you understand that game.
So it's been pretty incredible what's happening at our border. In my State of the Union Address, I shared the tragic story of Maria Fuertes, a 92-year-old great-grandmother who was allegedly raped, beaten, and murdered by a criminal illegal alien in New York City.
I think I can—no, I don't think—I'll take the word "allegedly" out. Do you mind if I do that? See, the lawyers put it in. If you don't mind I'll leave it out. She was raped, beaten, and murdered.
Only 5 weeks before the murder, the criminal alien had been arrested for assault. ICE asked for the criminal to be turned over but, instead, he was ordered released under New York City's sanctuary laws. If New York had simply honored ICE's detainer request—very simple thing to do—Maria Fuertes could be with her family right now.
And we're deeply moved to be joined this afternoon by Maria's grieving granddaughter, Daria. Where is Daria? Daria Ortiz. Daria. Please come up, Daria. Please. Daria is joined by her beautiful 5-year-old son. Thank you, Daria. It's a great honor. Thank you very much.
Daria Ortiz. Thank you.
The President. Please. Thank you very much. Please.
Ms. Ortiz. Hello, everyone. My name is Daria Ortiz. I'm the granddaughter of Maria Eusebia Fuertes, the 92-year-old woman who was raped and murdered in Queens.
I'd like to take this moment to say my grandmother was very generous and educated. She was a woman who dedicated her time to taking care of others. Before coming to America, she worked as a secretary for the President of her native country, the Dominican Republic. She's a shining example of when people come legally to this country, work hard, and do the right thing and are law-abiding citizens.
My grandmother raised her children and her grandchildren while working hard to give us a future. Unfortunately, my grandmother had to be the example of why something like this horrific crime should never happen.
Our family's hope is that her death was not in vain and that preventative measures are put into place to ensure that nothing like this ever happens to anyone again.
The tragedy in all of this is the fact that this could have been avoided had there been no sanctuary law. The tragedy is, my grandma is not ever going to be here again. The man——
[Ms. Ortiz started crying.] The President. Take your time. Take your time.
Ms. Ortiz. The man that is responsible for this should have never had the opportunity to do this had his multiple offenses not been ignored. The system not only failed our family, but it failed our city. Our family would like to thank the administration for acknowledging my family's tragedy and extending their concerns in this tragic time. Thank you very much.
The President. Thanks, Daria.
Ms. Ortiz. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much, Daria. So beautiful.
Not one more American life should be stolen by sanctuary cities. They're all over the place and a lot of people don't want them. Many, many communities—they don't want them in California. You hear "California," but they don't want them. The politicians want them for whatever reason.
That's why we're calling on Congress to pass legislation giving American victims the right to sue sanctuary cities and hold them accountable for the suffering and the damages that they've caused.
American citizens are entitled to safe neighborhoods and safe streets that, really, the people in this room have provided where they're given the opportunity. With sanctuary cities, they're really not given that opportunity. You're the noble guardians who protect our loved ones, and you keep America safe and you do an incredible job of doing it. Nobody could do it like you do.
Under my administration, we know that border security is national security—very much the same thing. And that's why I'm so honored to work hand in hand with the National Border Patrol Council and all of my friends. Some of you I know very well—very, very well.
We love our Border Patrol agents. We love our law enforcement. And we want to thank you for doing an incredible job. God bless you all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Brandon.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:47 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Brandon Judd, president, and Jon Anfinsen, vice president, National Border Patrol Council; Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf; President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico; and Reeaz Khan, who was charged on January 21 in the rape and murder of Maria Fuertes in the South Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens, NY, on January 6.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks to Members of the National Border Patrol Council Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/340082