Remarks in a Roundtable Discussion on Immigration and Border Security and an Exchange With Reporters in Calexico, California
The President. Well, thank you all very much. It's a great honor. And I'll be here many times. We're building a lot of wall. We're going to look at a piece of it today. And I was just told that it had a tremendous—it's had a tremendous impact already, the piece that we're going to be looking at.
But we have—under contract and under construction, we have a lot of things happening. And we expect to have close to 400 miles done within about 2 years from now. That's a lot. Four hundred miles will cover most of it.
I just want to thank everybody for being here. We have some of our great, great people from the State. And of all places, it's California. And we love California. But those people wanted us to build wall, and we got it built, including the wall in San Diego, which is pretty much completed, and it's had a tremendous impact. That wall has had, Kevin, a tremendous impact.
So I want to thank the Border Patrol Station in Calexio—Calexico, and it's been a great group of people. I just met them backstage. And the way you work is pretty incredible. And the job you do is beyond belief.
We have a system that's full. It's just full. And I was telling some of the people before: If it's full, there's nothing you can do about it. We have some horrible court decisions that have been made over the years. It's very unfair and that's the way it is.
But the system is full. And when it's full, there's nothing you can do. You have to say, "I'm sorry, we can't take you." We've been trying to take people, and I have to disagree with it. We've been trying to take people, and you can't do it. You can't do it. So we're going to look at that, and we're going to look at it very, very strongly.
I'd like to thank Secretary Nielsen for being here; General Semonite, Chief of Army Corps of Engineers, for being here. Really, thank you very much. It's been fantastic, the job you've done. And you're going to be speaking later on and explaining exactly what's happening with the wall and how much. In fact, we're going to be doing some of it now, I think, probably a better time to do it.
Commissioner Kevin McAleenan of our group. We have spent a lot of time together. And, Kevin, you're doing a great job. And thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.
California Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez. We appreciate very much. Melissa, thank you very much. I appreciate it. National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd, been a friend of mine for a long time. And making a lot of progress, Brandon. And I'll tell you, we're really making progress in letting people know that this is an absolute emergency.
I see that some of our biggest opponents, over the last 2 days, have said: "You know what? It really is an emergency." They can't believe what's happening. And part of it is because of the fact that the country is doing so well. And part of it's just a scam. People want to come in, and they shouldn't be coming in. They shouldn't be coming in. And there are people that are causing problems, and gang members and lots of others. We're getting them out. We're stopping them, for the most part, but we're getting them out when they do get in. And nobody has done the job we've done.
National Border Patrol Council President—so I want to thank you very much. You've been fantastic. And several members of law enforcement. I want to also thank Leader Kevin McCarthy. He came in from Washington with us today. He's been an amazing leader. The relationship is the best we've ever had, I think, as Republicans—the unification, the unified nature of what we're doing has been really something very special. And I want to thank Kevin very much. You're doing a fantastic job. I appreciate it.
And I think you and your group are going to be leading the charge on getting rid of some of these horrible loopholes that everybody knows is very bad. Whether it's catch-and-release or whether it's visa lottery, so many of them—chain migration is a total disaster. The asylum laws are broken. They're totally broken. And look, I inherited this stuff, and we're going to get it fixed. We have to.
So, Kevin, I appreciate you being here, and I appreciate you leading the charge.
I also want to state that there is indeed an emergency on our southern border. It's been loud and clear. We're in court, and a lot of people aren't even bringing too many of the suits anymore. A lot of people are going to bring the suit; pretty hard of them to say there's not an emergency. We have a big emergency at our southern border.
The United States had more than 70,000 illegal migrants rush our border. They rush our border. And we have military, and these are great military people. These are people that are strong and solid and love our country. But they can't act the way they would under other conditions, and there's not a lot they can do, but they've been doing it anyway. And we're going to bring up some more military.
And want to also thank Mexico, because Mexico—and I'm totally willing to close the border—but Mexico, over the last 4 days, has done more than they've ever done. We were talking about that before, Kevin. They're apprehending people now by the thousands and bringing them back to their countries, bringing them back to where they came from. And I think you see that. That's at their southern border. And that's a big difference. That will help us, you know—pretty much, 90 percent, 80 percent. What do you think, fellas? Pretty close, right? But that's a big difference. They've never done that before. I mean, when I say "never done it," I mean, like, in 30 years, they've never done it like they're doing it right now.
So the crisis is a direct result of the obstruction by Democrats in Congress. And we have to do something about it. And we're going to. And I think a lot of the Democrats feel that way, too. I think they feel it. They see it. There's not much they can do, but to say: "Wow. What was that I just saw on television?"
Since October, agents along the 70-mile stretch of border here in El Centro Sector have seen a nearly 400-percent increase in family units arriving in the sector. And you compare that with other years, pretty amazing.
But what we've done and what we're doing, you're going to see some very, very strong results. And as soon as the barriers—or the walls; I like calling them "walls" because that's what they are—go up, you're going to have a tremendous impact. Where we are going to be, in a little while, I've heard from people in that area that the impact has been incredible.
It's a colossal surge, and it's overwhelming our immigration system, and we can't let that happen. So, as I say, and this is our new statement: The system is full. Can't take you anymore. Whether it's asylum, whether it's anything you want, it's illegal immigration. We can't take you anymore. We can't take you. Our country is full. Our area is full. The sector is full. Can't take you anymore, I'm sorry. Can't happen. So turn around. That's the way it is.
If you look at our southern border, the number of people and the number of the amount of drugs, human trafficking—the human trafficking is something that nobody used to talk about. I talk about it. It's a terrible thing. It's ancient, and it's never been bigger than it is, modern, right now, today. All over the world, by the way, not just here. All over the world. Human trafficking, a terrible thing.
And they come into the areas of the border where you don't have the wall. They don't come through your points of entry. They come into areas where you don't have the wall. And they make a left, or they make a right. They come right into the country, loaded up with people, in many cases. And it's pretty sad.
By the end of next year, we'll have completed or begun construction, and that's what we're really here with the Army Corps of Engineers for. And I think what I'd like to do is—while we're on that subject, General, if you could just give a little detail of the wall that's under construction, what we've built, where we're going, because the press never likes to talk about it. They don't like to talk about what we've done. It doesn't fit their narrative, but we've done a lot. We've renovated a lot, and we're building a lot. And maybe you could give a little summation of that now.
Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, USA, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Thanks, Mr. President. You know, before we talk concrete and steel, though, I think it's important to talk a little bit about, you know, maybe service to nation and protecting this country. Four days ago, I was in a combat zone with our servicemembers, and I saw the dedication that they have to be able to protect ourselves from overseas. Unbelievable service.
But, sir, I would put these agents right in front of you today—the Customs and Border Patrol—of the same exact team; they protect America here from within. And I've been on the ground; I've seen the dedication they have. And this is not for a paycheck. This is not for any other kind of reward. This is to be able to step up and take care of this country.
And so I think that, before we do anything else, we've just got to make sure we have, you know, acknowledged the great work that these guys do, a phenomenal job.
The President. Thank you.
Lt. Gen. Semonite. When it comes to the actual construction, the Corps of Engineers is very, very proud to work for Secretary Nielsen and the Commissioner.
We have put in the ground over 82 miles that is up to date. And then, right now, by the end of this year, we'll have another 97 miles that will go in. And I'm really talking the entire depth of the border all the way across from Texas into California. And then, sir, with the money that both Congress has appropriated and other money that you have been able to direct, we will put in the ground another 277 miles in the next year. What that will end up with is by the end of—around December of 2020, the total amount of money that we will have put in the ground in the last couple of years will be about 450 miles. That's probably about $8 billion, in total about 33 different projects.
There are a lot of different complexities—some of that is on Federal land, some of that is on private land, some of it can be done relatively quick, because you don't have to have a land acquisition. Others we want to make sure we go through a due diligence. But when it comes to both the capacity of the contract community to be able to execute this, the dedication of the CBP and DHS to be able to set the conditions for us to be able to build, and then, for our team on the ground, we are committed to continue to be able to make this happen.
The President. Thank you very much, General. So you heard the numbers. The numbers are really spectacular. We've gotten it, and it's very, very tough to get money from the Democrats. So I'm getting it for everything else, but we don't get it for the wall.
But the good news is, we are getting it for the ports, the ports of entry. We are getting it for machinery. The detection—drug detection machinery. We're getting a lot of money coming in and that's good. And the wall is like pulling teeth. It's pretty tough.
I want to just say—ICE Special Agent in Charge Dave Shaw. Where are you Dave?
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations San Diego Special Agent in Charge Dave Shaw. Right here.
The President. Dave, thank you very much for doing a great job. I appreciate it very much.
We also have—in addition to Kevin McCarthy, we have some of our great people in Congress. And I want I thank you all for being here: Doug LaMalfa, Duncan Hunter—where's Duncan? Where's Duncan? Hi, Duncan. Hi.
Representative Duncan D. Hunter. I'll accept that out of the rest. [Laughter]
The President. Hi. He was right back there. Thank you, Duncan. Ken Calvert. Thank you, Ken. Thank you, Ken. Appreciate it. Chuck Fleischmann. Chuck, thanks. Great job you're doing. Tom McClintock. What a good name that is. [Laughter] My friend too. Thank you, Tom, very much. Kay Granger. Kay? Thank you very much. Great job. And Mike Rogers. Thanks, Mike. Really terrific. And they have been working hard. Working all the time. This is one of their big things that they work on. They feel so strongly about it.
So with that, I'd like to maybe ask you to say a few words, Gloria.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection El Centro Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez. Well——
The President. And I appreciate what I see over there. That's very nice. [Laughter]
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Thank you, Mr. President, very much. On behalf of the men and women on the El Centro Sector and myself, I just—we're extremely honored that you took the time to come out here, learn about our challenges, our needs out here in the 70 miles of border that our agents patrol.
[At this point, Chief Patrol Agent Chavez continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
Our agents are being stretched in so many different directions. I am truly proud of every single one of them because they do so much to protect this country——
The President. Right.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. ——and even continue with the processing and enduring the callous actions of these smugglers. Here in this sector, just this year, fiscal year '19, we have identified 193 fake families, people who are just teaming up kids with them to come through because they know that they can get a court date later and be able to get released into the community. So those are the challenges that the agents are dealing with. But they're out there. They're trying to investigate as much as they can to get it done.
We touched on the wall. And, you know, we're very fortunate here in the El Centro Sector. We have about 58 miles of border barrier. Most of it is old. It's ineffective for us nowadays. It's over 20 years old. And for groups that come over, it's very easily for them to cross. So, fortunately, with your approval, last year, we were able to construct, with the help of DOD—by the way, DOD: phenomenal.
The President. Good, good.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Phenomenal support that we've been receiving from the Department of Defense. Without their support we wouldn't be as efficient as are, operationally, because they are here providing us that support from the behind the scenes. Right now we have 37 marines out there monitoring cameras for us.
The President. Yes, yes.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. So those are 37 Border Patrol agents that don't have to be doing that duty because they're on the frontline.
But one of the things I wanted to bring up was: That border wall was constructed in 8months, from February to October. As soon as it was completed, we started measuring and we started monitoring its effectiveness. So for the first quarter of FY '19, we have had many, many efficiencies noted.
[Chief Patrol Agent Chavez continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
For Border Patrol agents, a border wall system is what works. We need the border barrier. We need to provide the requirements that meet our need. In this case, for us, it's 30 feet high. That's what we asked for, and that's what was provided. So thank you——
The President. Thank you. Thank you.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. ——on behalf of the Border Patrol here for allowing us to have that. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much. That's very nice. I appreciate it.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Appreciate it. Thank you to you guys, to all of you.
The President. And usually, that 35 percent is coming around; they're not going over because, when people are watching, they're not going over. They're going around where it ends. So it goes, and it ends, and they'll go around, because it's virtually a hundred-percent effective in terms of going through.
So as we extend it, it becomes—as you know folks know better than anybody—as we extend it, it becomes virtually impossible, except for a Mount Everest-type climber. [Laughter] And there aren't too many of them. [Laughter] It becomes virtually impossible to go through. So that's really something. Those are great. Thank you very much.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Thank you, Mr. President.
I did ask the team of agents—they didn't want—did not want you to leave from here—because your time is precious—they wanted to present you with a nice memento——
The President. Wow. Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. ——in appreciation for all the support that you've given us. So we went ahead and secured a piece of the new border wall that is out here in El Centro Sector. [Laughter]
The President. That's nice.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. And I would like to present this to you.
The President. Wow. Thank you very much.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. It reads this way; it says: "Number 45, Mr. President, the agents and employees of the U.S. Border Patrol, El Centro Sector are the tip of the spear proudly defending America's borders. In recognition of your commitment and unwavering support for the men and women on the frontlines and the border security mission of the United States, we would like to present you with this piece of the first 30-foot border wall installed along the United States border with Mexico. 'Honor First.' United States Border Patrol. El Centro Sector. April 5, 2019."
[Chief Patrol Agent Chavez presented the piece of the border wall to the President.]
The President. That's beautiful. Thank you. Thank you, Gloria.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. So thank you very much. Thank you.
The President. That's a heavy piece of wall.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Yes, it is. [Laughter] Yes, it is. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much. I appreciate it
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Appreciate it. We'll keep it here. Thank you.
The President. Thank you.
Madam Secretary, please.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen. Oh, sir, I think Gloria probably said it quite well and General Semonite. I just want to thank you always for coming out to the field to listen to the men and women. We greatly appreciate your support.
The President. Thank you.
Secretary Nielsen. And I want to thank all of our folks from Congress for being here. We really appreciate you listening to the men and women who are on the "tip of the spear," as Gloria said, and helping us resource the Department to do the mission that you've given us. So thank you all for being here.
The President. Thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd. President, thank you very much for having me here. The men and women of the Border Patrol really appreciate your time. We know that Air Force One has never seen—in your predecessor's time, Air Force One has never been this close to the border before. So these men and women here, they greatly appreciate you coming out and the time that you've given them.
And by the way, I didn't think Secret Service was supposed to let guns in the room. [Laughter] The President. Yes. [Laughter]
Mr. Judd. What's up with that?
The President. We trust him. We trust him, I think. [Laughter]
Mr. Judd. On a serious note, I began my career right here in El Centro 21 years ago—in the El Centro Sector. I work with people like Butch Mauldin, Pat Whipple, Mario Campos, Mike Matzke. We worked prewall, postwall. We've seen what happens when walls are built. We've seen how illegal immigration is driven low when we build those physical barriers. People say that it's "archaic." People say that they don't work, but in reality—and what Chief Chavez just explained—those walls do, in fact, work.
Frankly—and I appreciate the Congressmen that are here, because I know they support your agenda—but, for those Congressmen that want to be obstructionists, I say if they're not going to be a part of the solution, at least, get out of your way. Let your administration—
The President. Thank you.
Mr. Judd. ——do what needs to be done to get the border secure.
And with that, I'll turn it back over to you.
The President. Well, I just want to thank you. You've been an incredible representative of your men and women, I can tell you that. He's constantly getting us to do what's right. And Chris and so many others, you guys are fantastic, and I appreciate it. Even from before I started, they were calling. They want to see it happen. And it's happening. And I want to just thank you very much.
I—you know, when you talk about previous administrations—so we have a stretch along the Rio Grande where—and you people know exactly where I'm talking about. It's about 38 miles, done by, actually, both previous administrations. It was, sort of, done as a combination of one going into the other. And it's a wall—not a good-looking wall. It's a wall. It's got 36 doors in it. Big doors. Very big doors. And they never put the doors on. So it's 38 miles with 36 doors that you can drive a truck through. There's only one problem: They never put the doors on it.
So we're putting the doors on it. Or, even better, maybe not putting any doors. I said, "Maybe you do it without the doors." Because putting the doors on costs most than the property is worth. I'd rather give the money for the property and just say, "Bye-bye," or sell it to somebody on the other side.
But I mean, literally, putting the doors on cost more money. I said: "What's the property worth on the other side?" "Much less than the doors." These are doors with the hydraulic. They need hydraulic, because they're so heavy, which is ridiculous in itself.
But—so that's the kind of thinking that went into this. So now we're filling up those big—those big, gaping wounds in this wall. And it's going to have a big effect. And we're adding to it very substantially in that area, the Rio Grande area. And you know exactly the area I'm talking about, right?
Lt. Gen. Semonite. Yes, sir.
The President. You'd never saw anything like that. He said, "I've never seen this one before." A wall and big holes in it.
So a lot of good things are happening. Would you like to say a few words? Please.
Sheriff-Coroner Margaret Mims of Fresno County, CA. Thank you, Mr. President. Welcome to California.
The President. Thank you. Appreciate it.
Sheriff Mims. Margaret Mims, sheriff of Fresno, California.
The President. Yes.
Sheriff Mims. And thank you for your personal attention to the very important issue of border security. You know, I talked to local law enforcement across our Nation, and always, the number-one issue is border security when we talk about our issues.
[Sheriff Mims continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
Mr. President, there is a border crisis. And this crisis does not stay at the border. It trickles into our local communities, stretching the resources of local agencies. We must do everything we can to protect our communities from this threat. Border security is more important now than ever. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much. And you're right about that. It goes into Iowa and Idaho and New Hampshire and—you know, it's not the border, it's the border, and then they come in, and you end up in places that you would never think of the kind of crime that we see. And it comes right through this border. It starts right here. That's why, if we stop them at the southern border of Mexico—which, right now, Mexico is doing—that would be a fantastic thing. And I think that's happening. I think it's—never been before. Never—nobody's ever seen anything like it.
All of a sudden, Mexico is doing terrifically. They have to, because you've all seen—and I don't want to do this, but it would be a very profitable situation—we're going to have to tariff the cars coming in from Mexico to the United States. And if that doesn't work, which it will, we'll close the border. Somebody said it will take a year. No, it won't take a year, it will take a day. They wrote—you know, a lot of fake news—I said, "in a year."
Well, the tariffs will work, number one. But what will work—really work—is the closing of the border. We hope we don't have to do that, but I'll do it, because ultimately, the security of our Nation is the most important thing. And we're not even talking about the drugs, the massive amount of drugs that pours through. And it would have a tremendous impact.
And we're going to be working on that. We've been working on that. We've done a tremendous job on drugs coming into the country. If you look at some of the numbers—we're having a news conference next week at the White House on the impact that we've had—between opioid and all of the other problems we have—with drugs. Different drugs than we had 10, 15, 20 years ago—much different—but also the drugs coming in through the border. We've had a great impact.
Joseph, would you like to say a few words? Looks like he's in good shape, this guy. [Laughter]
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Calexico Station Watch Commander U.S Border Patrol Joseph Remenar. Ms. Chavez, did you want me to give the presentation?
The President. Sure.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Yes. The President. Thank you. Good.
Watch Commander Remenar. Well, Mr. President, good afternoon.
The President. Thank you.
Watch Commander Remenar. Thank you for coming here to Calexico Station. We're happy to have you.
The President. Thank you.
Watch Commander Remenar. I'd like to talk to you a little bit about the border wall and what it's done for us here and the activity levels. And when I talk about activity levels, I'm not just referencing the illegal apprehensions or illegal entries; I'm also talking about things like assaults, uses of force, manpower deployments, and statistics related to OTMs—other-than-Mexicans—and also family units.
[Watch Commander Remenar continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Now, in support of the border wall, when you move to other parts of the border where the fence is less effective—we'll speak about downtown Calexico, for instance——
The President. Right.
Watch Commander Remenar. ——we have an older, much less effective, picket-style fence. Much shorter, 15 feet. Luckily, we were able to bolster that infrastructure with concertina wire in early December.
The President. Right.
Watch Commander Remenar. The DOD helped with that.
The President. Very effective.
Watch Commander Remenar. Very effective. Fifty-three percent decrease in illegal entries after the concertina wire was deployed. We also had some unintended consequences. We saw a 228-percent increase in fence breaches due to the inferiority of the fence in that area. These fence breaches have cost us $317,000 so far to repair. And they keep going.
Now, contrast that with the new wall, and we've only seen three breaches postconstruction, which is—compare that, we have total—I said "228-percent increase," but it's been a total of 538 since the c-wire went up in December.
The President. Right. Right.
Watch Commander Remenar. These breaches, though, they don't just represent the ease in which the aliens can enter the United States, they also represent a significant challenge and security and safety challenge to our Border Patrol agents on the lines.
[Watch Commander Remenar continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Mr. President, at the end of the day, walls work, infrastructure works. We need more wall, we need more manpower, and we need more technology. And the mix of those is incredibly important. I can't stress that enough.
The President. Thank you, Joseph. The people of Calexico have been incredible. They've really rolled out the red carpet. We appreciate it. And let me ask you a question—you or Brandon—or both, you could ask. What do you do when we have military and we have the great Border Patrol and we have everybody here, but you have big open sections for miles and miles before we build a wall? We're building it now, but before: How do you stop these large numbers of people coming?
You're not—look, other countries, what they do is very, very tough. We can't do what they do. You understand that. We can't do what they do. We don't want to do what they do. But how do you stop these large, sometimes massive groups of people from just pouring through? What do you do? Prior to the wall. Once the wall is up, it's easy.
Watch Commander Remenar. Well, you just grab as many as you can. You arrest as many as you can.
The President. Yes.
Watch Commander Remenar. And the ones that get away, get away.
Mr. Judd. But there was nothing—there is nothing that you can do to physically keep them out of the country. That's what barriers are for. They physically keep people out.
The President. Yes. And——
Secretary Nielsen. Sir, the groups, as you know, are going up. It used to be that we'd see, maybe, one group a year of over a hundred. We've already seen over a hundred groups of over a hundred people, which is a hundred reaching our border at one time that the Border Patrol goes and picks up. And they're being very, as usual, humble. They also save thousands of people every year, many of whom have been left for dead by the smugglers and traffickers. So they take all parts of their mission seriously, but we need to resource them so they can do them all.
The President. And so I just speak to the folks in the first, second, third row. They're very special people. And some in the fourth row I see. [Laughter] The system is full. Can't take anymore. Sorry, folks. Can't take anymore.
Asylum—you know, I look at some of these asylum people; they're gang members. They're not afraid of anything. They have lawyers greeting them. They read what the lawyer tells them to read. They're gang members. And they say: "I fear for my life. I"—they're the ones that are causing fear for life.
It's a scam. Okay? It's a scam. It's a hoax. I know about hoaxes. I just went through a hoax. [Laughter]
So our system is full. We're not taking them anymore. Okay? We can't do it. You can't do it. You know, you can go up to a point, but we can't do it anymore.
Special Agent Shaw. Sir, I appreciate it. Thank you or letting me speak. Thank you, Secretary Nielsen. I appreciate it.
The President. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Special Agent Shaw. It's an honor to be here on behalf of ICE. Like you said, America is facing an unprecedented crisis at the border. The sheer volume of family units crossing the border has overwhelmed ICE's limited resources, and as result, more than 126,000 people have been released into the U.S. since the end of last year. [Special Agent Shaw continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
It's also—America is also facing a public safety crisis. ICE has had to reassign hundreds of officers to the border, limiting our ability to arrest and remove criminal aliens, gang members, and public safety threats from our communities. Just in fiscal year 2018, ICE arrested approximately 10,000 gang members, including 2,000 that were members of the MS-13 gang. We also seized over a million pounds of narcotics, including 27,000 pounds of fentanyl. Any reduction in these vital law enforcement efforts creates an unnecessary and an unacceptable risk in our communities and for our citizens.
I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.
The President. You know, you mentioned fentanyl. So, as you know, we're working on a trade deal with China—that's part of it. They have agreed that they will not be—essentially, not sending it. They're going to criminalize it, which it's not criminalized right now. And they're going to classify it in such a way that it's very hard to send, make, and a lot of other things. So we have some pretty good things coming on, because it comes—a lot of it, I guess most of it—comes in from China. And President Xi, himself, has told me they're going to do that. We have an agreement and they have actually already started, so that'll help you a lot.
Special Agent Shaw. Thanks, sir.
The President. Some of it's coming right in here—right to Mexico and then across. So I think we're going to take care of a lot of it. Thank you very much.
Special Agent Shaw. Thanks, sir.
The President. Please.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection El Centro Sector Special Operations Supervisor Lucio Gonzalez. Good afternoon, Mr. President. Welcome to Calexico. If I may.
[Supervisor Gonzalez stood to make his remarks.]
What we are currently encountering along the border—the entire southwest border—is truly a border humanitarian issue. The influx of people, especially from Central America, is completely overwhelming our agents and our agency. The apprehension demographic has completely changed from what it was in the past. In previous years, the majority of our arrests were from people from Mexico. Now those arrests are from Central America, especially with the threat that we have now of organized caravans coming to our borders and bringing thousands of people.
Mr. President, now the majority of our agents are assigned to transportation duties, processing duties, and hospital watch. Here at El Centro Sector, that is with a workforce that is approximately 300 agents below the allowed amount. To put things into perspective, approximately 60 agents per day are assigned to these duties. If you look over here, that can go to the preparation of the food, the caring of the unaccompanied children, and the helping of the family units. Those are 60 agents that can and should be patrolling our border. That affects our national security.
The President. Right.
Supervisor Gonzalez. As previously stated, El Centro Sector has seen an increase of 400 percent of family unit apprehensions. That's 400 percent. We've seen an increase of 24 percent in the apprehensions of unaccompanied children. What we're seeing is minors being exploited and being implanted into these fake family units. Transnational criminal organizations are coaching these families and even providing them with fraudulent documents to assist them with their claim.
[Supervisor Gonzalez continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Mr. President, we are in daily communication with consulates from all over the world in an attempt to verify these family unit claims. This task is nearly impossible, because we don't have the resources or just the logistics of what it takes to help us. This is a complete crisis. We need your assistance. We need additional agents. We need resources. We are completely overwhelmed as agents and as an agency. Thank you for your assistance.
The President. Okay. Good. And we'll take care of it. And I agree with you. [Inaudible] Good job. We'll take care of it. Your turn.
Assemblywoman Melissa A. Melendez of California. I'm up. [Laughter] Thank you, Mr. President. First, I want to thank you for your leadership on border security because the impacts are definitely felt in California. And the second thing I want to do is—on behalf of my constituents and all Californians—I want to thank all of the men and women here whose job it is to make sure that that border is secure. And it's made more and more difficult every single day by the majority party in California.
As you recall, Governor Brown—when he was in office, he reluctantly allowed National Guard troops to go down to the border to assist.
The President. That's true. You're right there.
Assemblywoman Melendez. And then, Governor Newsom got into office and he very quickly said: "No more National Guard troops down at the border. We don't want to assist." That comes from the fact that the Democrats in California decided that California would be a sanctuary State. That if you are an illegal immigrant, and you want to come into the United States, California is the place that you want to come. We are going to roll out the red carpet.
That causes a strain not only on our taxpayers, not only on law enforcement, not only on our schools—I mean, it is across the board; it is felt everywhere. This——
The President. And by the way, it makes it much tougher for everybody.
Assemblywoman Melendez. That's right.
The President. I mean, they pour into these areas that—sanctuary cities are a disaster.
Assemblywoman Melendez. Yes.
The President. They pour in. And a lot of the places in California, they don't want to be sanctuary cities.
Assemblywoman Melendez. No, they don't.
The President. They're actually asking not to be a sanctuary city, which is pretty incredible.
Assemblywoman Melendez. We had a lot of cities across California——
The President. Absolutely.
Assemblywoman Melendez. ——a lot of people go to their city councils and demand that their city council state for the record that they would not become a sanctuary city——
The President. That's right. Assemblywoman Melendez. ——which, of course, didn't work because the legislature said, "No, we're going to become a sanctuary State."
[Assemblywoman Melendez continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
Because what is happening is, Democrats are saying they want to take our border and change it from a border into a crosswalk, and we cannot have that.
The President. That's right. Well, Jeh Johnson was great. He—very strong statement. And Mr. Morgan too, who worked for President Obama, said, "This is a problem"—has been, not just now. I mean, this has been going on—I think, probably, the economy and a lot of other things have brought them up even more. We've had some every bad court decisions. The Flores decision is a disaster, I have to tell you. Judge Flores, whoever you may be, that decision is a disaster for our country. A disaster. And we're working on that.
But I just want to thank you. Great job you're doing. We really appreciate it. We're going to get it taken care of.
Assemblywoman Melendez. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. It's all going to come together. Thank you.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan. Just really quickly, Mr. President, I just wanted to echo Secretary Nielsen and Chief Chavez: Thank you for coming down to see us to listen to our men and women, to talk about the progress we're making.
[Commissioner McAleenan continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
And I just want to thank my men and women who do a tremendous job here every day. I'm very, very proud of their commitment, even though they're facing extreme challenges, as you've heard.
The President. And they're central casting. I've never seen a group of people like this. [Laughter] Every one of them is in perfect shape. And you're proud of what you do, right? You wouldn't trade places with me for anything. I know that, right? [Laughter] You're smart. Don't do it. [Laughter] Don't do it.
You know, Dave, you were mentioning before about, you know, people coming in, and they come in, and they come in. You don't have to take them in. When your system is packed, when you cannot get another person in, when every one of your detention areas is teeming and you have to let people go into a country—they can't take them. They can't take them. We don't have room. We don't have room. That means you can't take them. You know—understand it.
Special Agent Shaw. Yes, sir.
The President. I don't think anyone has ever expressed it like that, but I'm expressing it like that. When it's full, it's full; you can't take them. They go back to Mexico and Mexico will bring them back to their country, okay? Or if they're Mexican, it's a step easier, frankly. And again, over the last 4 days, Mexico has been very nice. Okay?
So just to—because you made a point. It was very interesting. But you can't take them; you can't take them. There's nothing you can do, okay? I'd like to maybe end by having a man who's really been a help, and that's Kevin McCarthy. You can speak on behalf of your great Representatives that are here with you. And maybe you could stand up and say a few words, Kevin, because you've been very much at the forefront of this fight. And you love this State very much.
House Minority Leader Kevin O. McCarthy. Well, thank you, Mr. President. And on behalf of all these Members of Congress, we want to thank you. We know you're on the frontline, and we do not intend to for you to be doing the job they're asking you to do today. We think you should be on the border. And we don't think that's right.
[Leader McCarthy continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
We want to work—bipartisan or anyway possible—but we've got to solve this problem. It is a crisis. We know that you are being overloaded. But I want you to know that we think it's a top priority, and we will work with this President, and we will work with anybody who wants to solve this problem.
So thank you very much.
The President. Thank you very much. I really appreciate that. Great job. Thank you, Kevin. And you know, Kevin mentioned catch-and-release. You catch them, and you release them. I'm saying this for them, because you people all get it. It's the dumbest thing anyone has ever heard. Maybe—I'm trying to figure out which is the worst—which is the dumbest? [Laughter] Is it chain migration, or is it visa lottery? "Pick them out of the hat. Let's go." [Laugher] Do you think they're giving us their finest? I don't think so. Right? I don't think so. It's just—it's crazy.
And we have to work with the Democrats and get it all—we have to—look, we need common sense in our country. This is about common sense. This is about anything other than common sense and that's what we need.
Now, Gloria has asked me to recognize—and she will recognize three people that she thinks are just outstanding. Please.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity. There are three individuals in this audience today that I did not want to miss the opportunity to recognize in your presence. So we have an agent, his name is Cesar Arroyo. Cesar, if you could please stand.
[Chief Patrol Agent Chavez continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
But it was his actions that truly reflect the character of what a Border Patrol agent is, and I wanted to recognize those actions here today.
The President. Thank you very much. That's a great job.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. There is another Border Patrol agent, his name is Carlos Lara. And Carlos was on duty as well. And Carlos witnessed an individual jump in—cross the border illegally—jump into an irrigation canal. And he immediately took action to also jump in and rescue that individual and pull him to safety.
So for Carlos's actions as well, I wanted to recognize that, Mr. President, because that happens on a regular basis here. But that day, he went through an extreme hardship, because of the all things he had to do to get that person. And eventually, he was able to bring him to safety as well. So thank you, Carlos, for your actions as well. The President. Thank you, Carlos. Thank you.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. And, Mr. President, last but not least, we have extraordinary mission support personnel—our civilian workforce—that works tirelessly behind the scenes to get the job done so that these Border Patrol agents are able to get to the frontline and get the work done. From admin support secretaries, clerks; to timekeepers; to logistics directors; to logistics personnel; our mechanics that we couldn't get, you know, a vehicle ready to go in the field without their help.
We have a young lady here today, her name is Nubia Avalos. And Ms. Nubia is like our unsung hero behind the scenes who is constantly delivering excellence in every task that we assign to her. This young lady here is the one in charge of your next 11 miles of 30-foot border wall——
The President. Oh, good. Good.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. ——that are going to start in June of 2019. Thank you.
The President. Very important. Very important. That's great.
Chief Patrol Agent Chavez. Thank you, sir.
The President. Thank you. She'll get it done. On time, on budget—maybe under budget, right? Under time, under budget. That's happened too, right? Thank you very much. Congratulations.
I just want to thank everybody. We're now going over to look at the new section of wall. And we have a lot of it going up.
And again, General, I want to thank you for the job. You've really got it together. We have a lot of work under construction, but a lot more is coming in the very—very, very soon. Money has been transferred. Money has been approved. And that wasn't easy.
When you have people that don't want to give you money, that's not so easy. But we know we need it. We had no choice.
So I just want to thank you all. And let's go see the wall. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Q. Mr. President, how does—how do you fix the asylum system? You said you want to see asylum reform. What do you specifically want to do about it? Governor Newsom, today, is saying that some of your ideas regarding asylum show a disregard for the Constitution.
The President. Well, Governor Newsom, honestly, is living in a different world. And that's a very dangerous world he's living in. And if he keeps living there, lots of problems for the people of California. They don't want that.
They want to be secure. They want to be safe. And not only asylum, but many other things. Loopholes. When you have asylum substation where rough, tough people with criminal records are asking for asylum, it doesn't work that way. So we have a full system. Nothing we can do.
Thank you very much, everybody. Let's go.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:39 p.m. at the U.S. Border Patrol Calexico Station. In his remarks, he referred to Chris Cane, president, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council; former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson; and former U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks in a Roundtable Discussion on Immigration and Border Security and an Exchange With Reporters in Calexico, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/332873