President Trump referred to some asylum seekers as gang members, and he disparaged asylum as a "scam" and a "hoax" during a visit to the southern border, in Calexico, California Friday. His visit to California came amid his threats to close the border, and followed soon after announcing his nominee for director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ron Vitiello, would not be the permanent pick to head ICE after all.
Mr. Trump said Friday afternoon that the U.S. asylum system was full, and could not take any more "asylum people." He claimed that some of those seeking asylum were actually gang members.
"I look at some of these asylum people, they're gang members," he said. "They're not afraid of anything. They have lawyers greeting them. They read what lawyers tell them to read." Mr. Trump added that it was a "scam."
"It's a scam. It's a hoax. I know about hoaxes. I just went through a hoax," he said in a veiled reference to the Russia collusion probe.
"The system is full. We can't take you anymore. Whether it's asylum. Whether it's anything you want. It's illegal immigration," he continued.
During a roundtable meeting with Customs and Border Patrol officials in Calexico, the president emphasized the need for a border wall, something echoed by those selected to sit at the table with him. Mr. Trump also announced he'd hold a news conference at the White House next week to talk about the things his administration is doing to curb the flow of opioids and other hazards at the southern border. He had previously said he would hold a news conference during his trip to California.
Earlier on Friday, the president, speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn before leaving for California, explained his administration want to go in a "tougher direction" than Vitiello.
"Ron's a good man, but we're going in a tougher direction," Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump is in Calexico to look at what the White House says is new border wall construction. Mr. Trump is then flying to Beverly Hills for GOP fundraisers and then will travel to Las Vegas.
On Friday morning, the president reiterated his threat toif immigrants continue to enter the U.S. over the southern border in large numbers. He said that Mexico has been doing an "absolutely terrific" job for last few days in stemming the flow of undocumented migrants since he last week.
"If they apprehend people at their southern border, where they don't have to walk through, that's a big home run," Mr. Trump said. He called on Congress to scrap the current the asylum system, and reiterated his desire to "get rid of judges" who rule against his immigration policies.
Mr. Trump also told reporters that he will not be attending the White House Correspondents Dinner for the third year in a row, and will instead host a rally on that night. On the night of the dinner in 2017, he did a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and on the night of the dinner in 2018, he did a rally in Washington Township, Michigan.
"The dinner is so boring, and so negative," Mr. Trump explained. "I like positive things."
The president has continued to push Congressional Democrats to act on border security and immigration reform, most recently threatening to close large sections of the border.
"Congress must get together and immediately eliminate the loopholes at the Border! If no action, Border, or large sections of Border, will close. This is a National Emergency!" the president tweeted earlier this week.
Before leaving, Mr. Trump's re-election campaign released a video highlighting the "undeniable crisis" at the southern border. The video features a variety of 2020 Democratic contenders slamming the president's immigration policies and long-promised border wall, and later claims that Democrats "do not want to keep Americans safe."
"Democrats refuse to admit there is a crisis along our southern border and are even actively campaigning on an open borders platform," said Trump campaign National Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a statement. "President Trump has been an unmistakable leader on the issue of illegal immigration since before he took office and will not rest until our border is secured."