President Donald Trump on Friday ripped the nation's "weak" immigration laws, telling families of people who died at the hands of illegal immigrants that "our first duty, and our highest loyalty, is to the citizens of the United States."
"We will not rest until our border is secure, our citizens are safe and we finally end the immigration crisis once and for all," Trump told the "Angel Families" at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House.
"We want safety in our country," he said. "We want strong borders.
"We want people to come in, but we want them to come in the proper way.
"These are incredible families, incredible people," the president said. "Your loved ones have not died in vain."
Trump's comments came two days after he signed an executive order halting his administration's policy of separating children from their parents detained after illegally crossing the U.S. border.
But the president's order did not end the "zero-tolerance" policy that criminally prosecutes all adults caught crossing the border illegally.
It will keep families intact while they are in custody, expedite their cases and ask the Defense Department to help house them.
The order also did not change the plight of as many as 2,300 children taken from their families since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April that the policy would begin.
President Trump has long championed the cause of the angel families, appearing with them during the campaign and speaking at rallies organized by The Remembrance Project, which was formed in 2009 to honor those murder victims.
Trump also slammed the media for not addressing the concerns of such families, amid the images of children being held in cages at border detention centers and audio recordings of young children crying for their parents.
He also cited statistics on the number of violent crimes committed by illegals, including 63,000 Americans being killed by aliens since the 9/11 attacks, and bashed sanctuary cities "that release violent criminals into our communities and then protect them."
"We're gathered today to hear from the American victims of illegal immigration," Trump began. "You never hear this side.
"These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones.
"They're not separated a day, two days," the president continued. "Permanently.
"Their loved ones were killed by illegal aliens. These are the families that the media ignores.
"These are the stories that Democrats and people that are weak on immigration — they don't want to discuss, they don't want to hear, they don't want to see or talk about.
"The networks don't bring cameras to their homes, or display the images of their incredible loved ones across the nightly news," Trump said.
"They don't do that.
"They don't talk about the death and destruction caused by people that shouldn't be here," he added. "People that will continuously get into trouble and do bad things.
"For years, their plight was met with indifference. No more."
Several family members spoke, discussing how they lost children and relatives to violence by illegals and attacking the media for ignoring their situations.
"We weren't lucky enough to be separated for five days, 10 days," Laura Wilkerson, of Pearland, Texas, told the gathering. "Separated permanently."
Her son, Josh, 18, was murdered by an illegal immigrant from Belize in 2010 who tortured and set him afire.
"Any time we want to see our kids, we go to the cemetery," Wilkerson said. "We can't speak to them, Skype with them.
"I want to thank you for what you're doing."
Sabine Durden, of Moreno Valley, Calif., began her testimony by saying: "I'm one of your legal immigrants. I came the right way.
"I paid lots of money. Took me five years to become a citizen — and I'm a proud citizen.
"And I didn't drag my son," Dominic, who was killed in 2012 by an illegal immigrant from Guatemala who was driving drunk.
Dominic Durden was riding to work as a 911 dispatcher for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department on his motorcycle when he was hit. He was 30.
"I didn't drag him over borders, through deserts," Sabine Durden said. "I didn't place him in harm's way.
"I protected my child from harm.
"This was my only child," she later said. "I have no family.
"I was going to end my life," Durden said, adding that Trump's discussion of illegal immigration in his 2015 presidential announcement gave her hope.
"I had no clue that I would ever be at the White House.
"I brought my son," she continued. "This is what I have left, his ashes.
"I wear his ashes in a locket. This is how I hug my son."
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