President Trump on Tuesday blamed yet another entity for the growing immigration crisis on the U.S. southern border: the news media.
During a speech to a small-business group in Washington, Trump said the “fake news” reports about children being separated from their families at the border are aiding human traffickers.
“They are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe,” Trump said of the media. “They know exactly what they’re doing.”
The president accused news outlets of covering child separations more than congressional hearings about an inspector general report about the Hillary Clinton email probe “because those hearings are not good for them.”
“The whole thing is a scam,” he told members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
The president also took aim at Mexico, accusing America’s southern neighbor of not doing enough to stop illegal border crossings.
“They come up through Mexico — Mexico does nothing for us,” Trump said. “They could stop it. They have very strong laws. Try staying in Mexico for a couple days see how long that lasts.”
The explosive remarks are the latest sign Trump is not backing down from his administration’s “zero tolerance” stance on illegal immigration, despite growing opposition at home and around the world.
Roughly 2,000 children have been separated from family members as a result of his administration’s decision to prosecute almost everyone who crosses the southern border illegally and jail them while awaiting trial.
The children are placed in juvenile detention facilities near the border because they cannot be held in custody with their adult guardians.
Trump is scheduled to meet with House Republicans later on Tuesday afternoon to discuss immigration measures slated for floor votes this week.
The president said he would be briefed on the proposals and then is “going to make changes” to them. That comment appeared to undercut his own staff, who said last week the president would sign both measures.
The president said he wants Congress to grant him “the legal authority to detain and properly remove families together as a unit,” a provision included in legislation written by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
“We have to be able to do this,” he said. “This is the only solution to the border crisis.”
He also questioned the need for more judges to handle immigration cases, something supported by lawmakers in both parties and his own Justice Department.
“I don’t want judges,” he said. “I want border security. I don’t want to try people. I don’t want people coming in.”
Trump also offered a confusing justification of the practice of separating children from their families at the border, something his top aides have also struggled to defend.
“I don’t want children taken away from parents,” Trump said, blaming the problem on a tangled web of “Democrat-supported loopholes” in immigration law he said he wants to close.
But in the next sentence, Trump said the separations are the intended consequence of a policy meant to deter illegal immigration.
“When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away,” he said.
His comments reflect the contradictory remarks offered by members of his own team.
Department of Health and Human Services official Steve Wagner told reporters on Tuesday that “the new policy will result in a deterrence effect and we certainly hope parents stop bringing kids on this dangerous journey.”
That came one day after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsensaid she finds it “offensive” for reporters to suggest the child separations are an intended effect of the administration’s policy.