4:19 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, everyone. Appreciate it. And good afternoon. I would like to provide an update to the American people regarding the crisis on our southern border — and crisis it is.
Illegal immigration affects the lives of all Americans. Illegal immigration hurts American workers; burdens American taxpayers; and undermines public safety; and places enormous strain on local schools, hospitals, and communities in general, taking precious resources away from the poorest Americans who need them most. Illegal immigration costs our country billions and billions of dollars each year.
America is a welcoming country. And under my leadership, it’s a welcoming country. We lead the world in humanitarian protection and assistance, by far. There’s nobody even close. We have the largest and most expansive immigration programs anywhere on the planet.
We’ve issued 40 million green cards since 1970, which means the permanent residency and a path to citizenship for many, many people. But we will not allow our generosity to be abused by those who would break our laws, defy our rules, violate our borders, break into our country illegally. We won’t allow it.
Mass, uncontrolled immigration is especially unfair to the many wonderful, law-abiding immigrants already living here who followed the rules and waited their turn. Some have been waiting for many years. Some have been waiting for a long time. They’ve done everything perfectly. And they’re going to come in. At some point, they’re going to come in. In many cases, very soon. We need them to come in, because we have companies coming into our country; they need workers. But they have to come in on a merit basis, and they will come in on a merit basis.
The communities are often left to bear the cost and the influx of people that come in illegally. We can’t allow that.
There’s a limit to how many people a nation can responsibly absorb into their societies. Every day, above and beyond our existing lawful admission programs, roughly 1,500 to 2,000 people try crossing our borders illegally. We do a very good job considering the laws are so bad. They’re not archaic; they’re incompetent. It’s not that they’re old; they’re just bad. And we can’t get any Democrat votes to change them. It’s only the Republicans that are — in unison, they want to change them. They want to make strong borders, want to get rid of any crime because of the borders, of which there’s a lot.
And we’ve done a great job with the laws that we have. We’re moving in tremendous numbers of people to get out the MS-13 gangs and others gangs that illegally come into our country. And we’re getting them out by the thousands.
But this is a perilous situation, and it threatens to become even more hazardous as our economy gets better and better. A lot of the cause of this problem is the fact that we right now have the hottest economy anywhere in the world. It’s doing better than any economy in the world. Jobs, unemployment — you look at any number.
Right now, we have more workers than any time in the history of our country. We have more people working, which is a tremendous statement. More people working than at any time in the history of our country. And people want to come in, and in some cases, they want to take advantage of that, and that’s okay. And we want them to come in, but they have to come in through merit. They have to come in legally.
At this very moment, large, well-organized caravans of migrants are marching towards our southern border. Some people call it an “invasion.” It’s like an invasion. They have violently overrun the Mexican border. You saw that two days ago. These are tough people, in many cases. A lot of young men, strong men. And a lot of men that maybe we don’t want in our country. But again, we’ll find that out through the legal process.
But they’ve overrun the Mexican police, and they’ve overrun and hurt badly Mexican soldiers. So this isn’t an innocent group of people. It’s a large number of people that are tough. They’ve injured, they’ve attacked, and the Mexican police and military has actually suffered. And I appreciate what Mexico is trying to do.
So let me begin by stating that these illegal caravans will not be allowed into the United States, and they should turn back now, because they’re wasting their time. They should apply to come into our country. We want them to come into our country very much. We need people to help us, with all of these companies that are coming in. We’ve never had anything like this. We have car companies coming in. We have Foxconn — so involved with the manufacturing of Apple products — coming in in Wisconsin. We have a lot of companies coming in, but they have to apply, and they have to be wonderful people that are going to love our country and work hard.
And we’ve already dispatched, for the border, the United States military. And they will do the job. They are setting up right now, and they’re preparing. We hope nothing happens. But if it does, we are totally prepared. Greatest military anywhere in the world, and it’s going to be, and is now, in great shape. No longer depleted like it was when I took over as the President of the United States.
The government of Mexico has generously offered asylum, jobs, education, and medical care for people within the caravan, but many members of the caravan have refused these offers, which demonstrate that these migrants are not legitimate asylum-seekers. They’re not looking for protection. Because if they were, they’d be able to get it from Mexico. Mexico has agreed to take them in and encouraged them to stay. But they don’t want to stay; they want to come into the United States. So this is no longer safety, and asylum is about safety.
Asylum is not a program for those living in poverty. There are billions of people in the world living at the poverty level. The United States cannot possibly absorb them all. Asylum is a very special protection intended only for those fleeing government persecution based on race, religion, and other protected status.
These caravans and illegal migrants are drawn to our country by Democrat-backed laws and left-wing judicial rulings. We’re getting rulings that are so ridiculous, so bad. They’re writing the laws. Can’t do that. Collectively known as — as an example, catch-and-release. It’s a disgrace that we have to put up with it.
These policies lead to the release of illegal aliens into our communities after they’ve been apprehended. But we’re not releasing anymore. Big change, as of a couple of days ago. We’re going to no longer release. We’re going to catch; we’re not going to release. They’re going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place. So we’re not releasing them into the community.
We have millions of people that, over the years, have been released into the community. They never show up for the trials. They never come back. They’re never seen again. And those people, they know who they are. And we know a lot of where they are, who they are. And those people will be deported, directly deported.
The biggest loophole drawing illegal aliens to our borders is the use of fraudulent or meritless asylum claims to gain entry into our great country. An alien simply crosses the border illegally, finds a Border Patrol agent, and using well-coached language — by lawyers and others that stand there trying to get fees or whatever they can get — they’re given a phrase to read. They never heard of the phrase before. They don’t believe in the phrase. But they’re given a little legal statement to read, and they read it. And now, all of a sudden, they’re supposed to qualify. But that’s not the reason they’re here.
This merely asserts the need for asylum, and then often released into the United States, and they await a lengthy court process. The court process will takes years sometimes for them to attend. Well, we’re not releasing them into our country any longer. They’ll wait for long periods of time. We’re putting up massive cities of tents. The military is helping us incredibly well.
I want to thank the Army Corps of Engineers. They’ve been so efficient, so good, so talented. And we have thousands of tents. We have a lot of tents; we have a lot of everything. We’re going to hold them right there. We’re not letting them into our country. And then they never show up — almost. It’s like a level of 3 percent. They never show up for the trial. So by the time their trial comes, they’re gone. Nobody knows where they are. But we know where a lot of them are, and they’re going to be deported.
There are now nearly 700,000 aliens inside the United States awaiting adjudication of their claims. Most of these people we have no idea how they got there, why they got there. And the number is actually going to be a much larger number as we look at all of the data. So if you look at just at a minimal number, it’s the size of Vermont, or bigger. And the overall number could be 10 million people; it could be 12 million people; it could be 20 million people. The record keeping from past administrations has not exactly been very good.
As human smugglers and traffickers have learned how the game is played and how to game the system, we have witnessed a staggering 1,700 [percent] increase in asylum claims since the year 2010. They understand the law better than the lawyers understand the law. You have a lot of professionalism there. You have a lot of professionalism involved with setting up the caravans. You take a look at the way that’s happening. Even the countries — you look at Honduras and El Salvador, and you look at what’s happening at the different levels and different countries, and what’s happening on the streets. There’s a lot of professionalism taking place, and there seems to be a lot of money passing. And then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, these big caravans are formed and they start marching up. They got a long way to go.
On average, once released, an asylum case takes three and half years to complete. Think of it. Somebody walks into our country, reads a statement given by a lawyer, and we have a three-and-a-half-year court case for one person, whereas other people tell them, “Out. Get out. Just get out.” Other countries — “Get out. We have a border. Get out.”
We go through years and years of litigation because of the Democrats and the incompetent, very, very stupid laws that we have. They’re the laughingstock all over the world, including the people that are marching up. They understand. But the difference is, we’re not allowing them in, and we’re not releasing, and we’re not doing any of the things that were done for so many years that really are terrible for our country.
The overwhelming majority of claims are rejected by the courts, but by that time, the alien has usually long since disappeared into our country. So they never get to see the judge. They never get to have a ruling. They don’t care because they’re in the country and nobody knows where they are.
All told, there are approximately 1 million aliens who have received final orders of removal. They’ve actually got final orders of removal. You don’t have to go to court anymore. The courts have already issued the orders of removal, and we’ve gotten a lot of them. But who remain at large in our country. So we’ve moving them out.
This endemic abuse of the asylum system makes a mockery of our immigration system, displacing legitimate asylum-seekers — and there are legitimate asylum-seekers — while rewarding those who abuse or defraud our system, which is almost everybody. Everybody is abusing it and just doing things to our system which were unthinkable, I’m sure even by the Democrats who were largely responsible for getting it done.
These individuals disrespect the foundations of American government by voluntarily choosing to break the law as their first act on American soil.
Furthermore, contained within this giant flow of illegal migration to our southwest border is the movement of illicit and deadly narcotics. It’s in the southwest, most of it comes in. Nearly 100 percent of heroin in the United States enters through the southern border– think of that: 100 percent, almost, of heroin comes in through the southern border, along with roughly 90 percent of cocaine, and the majority of meth, and a substantial portion of the ultra-lethal fentanyl killing our youth. Fentanyl is killing our youth.
These drugs destroy the lives and kill much more than 70,000 Americans every single year. And the number goes up. It goes up and up and up, because we are so foolish with our laws that we allow this to happen. A death toll equivalent of the size of an entire American city every year.
The current influx, if not halted, threatens to overwhelm our immigration system and our communities, and poses unacceptable dangers to the entire nation. We have to have our borders. Can’t let drugs come in. Not just — it’s not just people. It’s people; it’s drugs. It’s human traffickers.
Human trafficking is now at the highest level in the world that it’s ever been. And that’s because of the Internet. Think of it — human trafficking. You think back 200 years, 500 years. Human trafficking — where they steal children; in many cases, women, unfortunately. They steal women. The human traffickers, the lowest scum on Earth. The lowest scum on Earth. And it’s at a level that it’s never been. Worldwide — never been at a level like this.
If these caravans are allowed into our country, only bigger and more emboldened caravans will follow. And you see that’s what’s happening now. We have one that’s coming up, and it’s being somewhat dissipated, as they march. But then other people are joining it. And then it gets bigger. And now, if you look back at Honduras, and if you look at El Salvador, other ones are solving and they’re forming. They’re forming. You have new ones that are forming. And we call it “caravan number two” is unbelievably rough people. Very, very hard for the military to stop it. Our military will have no problem. But very, very hard. Mexico is having a very, very hard time with it.
Once they arrive, the Democrat Party’s vision is to offer them free healthcare, free welfare, free education, and even the right to vote. You and the hardworking taxpayers of our country will be asked to pick up the entire tab. And that’s what’s happening — medical and, in many cases, they’ve got some big medical problems before they get here.
No nation can allow itself to be overwhelmed by uncontrolled masses of people rushing their border. That’s what’s happening. They are rushing our border. They are coming up. And even before you get to the caravan, just on a daily basis, people coming in. And it’s a very bad thing for our country. It’s sad in many ways, but it’s a very bad thing for our country. And again, costs us billions and billions and billions of dollars a year.
And I will therefore take every lawful action at my disposal to address this crisis. And that’s what we’re doing. The United States military, great people.
My administration is finalizing a plan to end the rampant abuse of our asylum system — it’s abused — to halt the dangerous influx, and to establish control over America’s sovereign borders. We got borders. And once that control is set and standardized, and made very strong — including the building of the wall, which we’ve already started. $1.6 billion spent last year; $1.6 billion this year. We have another $1.6 [billion] that will be coming, but we want to build it at one time. All it does is turn people in a different direction if you don’t. We want to build it at one time.
Under this plan, the illegal aliens will no longer get a free pass into our country by lodging meritless claims in seeking asylum. Instead, migrants seeking asylum will have to present themselves lawfully at a port of entry. So they’re going to have to lawfully present themselves at a port of entry. Those who choose to break our laws and enter illegally will no longer be able to use meritless claims to gain automatic admission into our country. We will hold them — for a long time, if necessary.
The only long-term solution to the crisis, and the only way to ensure the endurance of our nation as a sovereign country, is for Congress to overcome open borders obstruction. That’s exactly what it is: It’s open border obstruction. No votes. You can come up with the greatest border plan, the greatest immigration plan. You won’t get one vote from a Democrat. They have terrible policy. In many cases, they’re terrible politicians. But the one thing I give them great credit for: They vote as a bloc. They stick together.
And we will end catch-and-release. We’re not releasing any longer. We also must finish the job that we started by being strong at the border. When we’re strong at the border, people will turn away and they won’t bother. You will see, in a year from now, or in certainly a period of time from now, despite our very good economy, which some of them come for that — I can’t blame them for that; you have to do it legally — but you will see that the numbers of people trying to get in will be greatly reduced.
But that can only happen if we’re strong at the border. And the southern border is a big problem, and it’s a tremendous problem for drugs pouring in and destroying our youth, and, really, destroying the fabric of our country. There’s never been a drug problem like we have today. And as I said, much of it comes from the southern border.
So in the meantime, I will fulfill my sacred obligation to protect our country and defend the United States of America. And this is a defense of our country. We have no choice. We have no choice. We will defend our borders, we will defend our country.
Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, what happens to the children then? If you’re ending catch-and-release, what happens to those children? Do they stay in these tent cities? Or what happens?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re working on a system where they stay together. But I will say that, by doing that, tremendous numbers — you know, under the Obama plan, you could separate children. They never did anything about that. Nobody talks about that. But under President Obama, they separated children from the parents. We actually put it so that that didn’t happen.
But what happens when you do that is you get tremendous numbers of people coming. It’s almost like an incentive to — when they hear they’re not going to be separated, they come many, many times over. But President Obama separated the children, the parents. And nobody complained. When we continued the exact same law, this country went crazy.
So we are going to continue and try to continue what we’re doing. But it is a tremendous incentive for people to try. But it’s going to be very, very hard for people to come into our country. So we think we’ll be able to do that.
Q With the military, do you envision them firing upon any of these people?
THE PRESIDENT: I hope not.
Q Could you see the military (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: I hope not. It’s the military — I hope — I hope there won’t be that. But I will tell you this: Anybody throwing stones, rocks — like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military, Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico — we will consider that a firearm. Because there’s not much difference, where you get hit in the face with a rock — which, as you know, it was very violent a few days ago — very, very violent — that break-in. It was a break-in of a country. They broke into Mexico.
And you look at what’s happening in Guatemala, just to mention Guatemala, along with El Salvador and Honduras. It’s disgraceful that those countries aren’t able to stop this. Because they should be able to stop it before it starts.
And the United States pays them a fortune, and we’re looking at not doing that anymore. Because why should we be doing that when they do nothing for us?
Jeff. Jeff, go ahead.
Q Mr. President, how is this plan going to be legal, considering the current law?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, this is totally legal. No. This is legal. We are stopping people at the border. This is an invasion, and nobody is even questioning that.
Q But in terms of your plans to change asylum, are you going to do this via executive order?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, you don’t have to — you don’t have to release. You have — you can hold. The problem is, to hold people, you need massive facilities. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Another country says, “Sorry, you can’t come in.” With us, we take their name, take their phone number, take their everything, and say, “Good luck.” Only because we don’t have the facilities to hold people. But we’re building the facilities now. We’re building massive numbers of tents, and we will hold them in tents. But you don’t have to release them. They released them only because they didn’t have the facilities to hold them.
Q Mr. President, is there like an executive order that you’re going to be releasing today?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, we will be doing an executive order sometime next week, yes.
Q (Inaudible) executive order dealing with ending catch-and-release and asylum?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s going to end — it’s going to be talking about everything. It’ll be quite comprehensive. Many of the things we’ve talked about today.
Q Mr. President, so you’re — so just to clarify, you are speaking of, in the tents, these family units that would arrive (inaudible) the children?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have other facilities also. But what’s happened is we are holding so many facilities — so many people that our facilities are being overrun. They’re being overrun. And we are putting up temporary facilities. Eventually, people won’t be coming here anymore when they realize they can’t get through.
Q So they will hold the children in those tents with their parents?
THE PRESIDENT: We will be holding the family and the children together. Remember this: President Obama separated children from families. And all I did was take the same law, and then I softened the law. But by softening the law, many people come up that would not have come up if there was separation.
Q Mr. President, what do you say to the critics who think this is a political thing before the midterms?
THE PRESIDENT: There’s nothing political about a caravan of thousands of people, and now others forming, pouring up into our country. We have no idea who they are. All we know is they’re pretty tough people when they can blast through the Mexican military and Mexican police. They’re pretty tough people. Even Mexico said, “Wow, these are tough people.” I don’t want them in our country. And women don’t want them in our country. Women want security. Men don’t want them in our country. But the women do not want them. Women want security. You look at what the women are looking for. They want to have security. They don’t want to have these people in our country. And they’re not going to be in our country. It’s a very big thing.
Q Mr. President, when you talk about finalizing a plan to end asylum, is this a plan that would be included in that executive order?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, no, people are going to have a chance to go for asylum. But if you look at the records, not very many people are allowed to stay once they go to court. But what happens is they’d go into — they were using asylum — first of all, they were told what to say by lawyers and others. “Read this statement.” You read the statement, and now you’re seeking asylum. The whole thing is ridiculous. And we won’t put up with it any longer.
Q President Trump, U.S. law and international law says that people who have valid claims have a right to seek asylum.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right.
Q So why would — why would they be —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they’re going to go to court. They’re going to go to court, as crazy as it sounds. They’re going to go —
Q But the law say that they don’t — they’re not —
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. Excuse me. Ready? They’re going to go to court, and a judge is going to determine. But usually, when they go to court, they’re deported. It just seems that most of the people are deported once they go. The problem is they never end up going to court, because when they come in, they’re told to come back in a year, for a court case, and they disappear into the United States never to be seen again.
But we’re going to be —
Q But the current laws doesn’t say about holding people in tent cities.
THE PRESIDENT: And they’re given deportation notices. We will be deporting those people.
Q Mr. President, you’re saying rocks are — rock-throwing, like happened in Mexico, will be considered —
THE PRESIDENT: We will consider that the maximum that we can consider that, because they’re throwing rocks viciously and violently. You saw that three days ago. Really hurting the military. We’re not going to put up with that. If they want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. We’re going to consider — and I told them, consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say, consider it a rifle.
Q A separate topic, sir. Did you offer Heather Nauert the job of U.N. Ambassador?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, she’s under very serious consideration. She’s excellent. She’s been with us a long time. She’s been a supporter for a long time. And she’s really excellent. So she’s under very serious — we’ll probably make a decision next week. We have a lot of people that want the job, and there are a lot of really great people. But we’ll be talking about that next week sometime.
Q Did you see Oprah Winfrey’s comments today?
THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t. What did she say?
Q She was campaigning in Georgia at the same time that Vice President Pence was.
THE PRESIDENT: At the same time as who?
Q Excuse me, at the same time Vice President Pence was, encouraging people to vote and —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s okay. I mean, I was on Oprah’s last week — the last week of her show. Oprah liked me very much. I’ve always liked Oprah. You know, Oprah is good. But the woman that she’s supporting is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia, by any stretch of the imagination.
And I’ll be in Georgia the next few days — the next few days — and we have a tremendous — around Macon — we have a tremendous crowd already. Nobody has a crowd like we have because people want to see a great governor of Georgia. And I think Brian is going to be a great governor of Georgia. I think he’ll be a fantastic governor. He’s totally qualified.
She is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia. She’s not qualified. And Georgia is a great state —
Q Why is she not qualified?
THE PRESIDENT: — it’s a great, great state. Take a — take a look. Take a look at her past. Take a look at her history. Take a look at what she wants to do and what she has in mind for the state. That state will be in big, big trouble very quickly. And the people of Georgia don’t want that.
Q Mr. President, really quickly, just on election integrity? Can you say for a fact that our elections are secure next week? What can you tell us?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, yeah. I just met with — I just met with the FBI, with Chris; and the Justice Department; and with Secretary Nielsen. And they’ve spent a lot of time and effort and some money on making sure that everything with respect to the election coming up in five days is going to be perfect and safe. There will be hopefully no meddling, no tampering, no nothing. And we spent a lot —
Now President Obama had the chance to do that in September before ’16, but he chose not to do that because he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. And while everybody agrees it didn’t affect the vote at all, nevertheless he could have done things that probably would have made it a little more obvious, a little clearer. But he was told by the FBI in September before the election in ’16 about potential meddling or potential Russian meddling, and he did nothing about it. He didn’t do that because he thought that Hillary Clinton would win.
All right, one more.
Q Are you optimistic that you can still get the continuing resolution through December 7th for Homeland Security funded, even if the Democrats take the House?
THE PRESIDENT: I think if — I think we’re going to do very well in the election, I must tell you. If you look at the races, if you look at the Senate, which is very important, obviously. I’m leaving today; I’ll be in Missouri. And I’ll be touching down at a number of places over the next five days. But I think we’re doing very well in the Senate, and I think we’re doing very well in the House.
The only problem is, with the House, there’s so many people. I’d like to stop for every one of them, but there’s so many people. But I think we’re doing very well in the House. I think people want to see strong borders. I think they want to see security. They want to see good healthcare. They want to see the things that we’re providing. They don’t want to have their taxes increased. We’re decreasing their taxes.
We just announced yesterday, you probably heard — Kevin Brady put it out — a reduction of tax. We’re going for a reduction of middle-income tax or 10 percent. The Democrats want to, I mean, double up your taxes. In some cases, you’ll have to pay three times what you’re paying right now in order to get bad healthcare.
And so what we’re doing is something that I think the people want, and I think we’re going to do very well in the election, even though history says that whoever President it — whoever the President may be, it trends the other way. It certainly does seem that way.
But nobody has ever been President that has the greatest economy in the history of our country. This is the greatest economy in the history of our country. These are the greatest unemployment and employment numbers in the history of our country. Nobody has ever had that to campaign with. So I do.
Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.
4:51 P.M. EDT