President Donald Trump said he would stick to a plan to step up deportations of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. despite Congress passing legislation this week to improve border security.
The deportations will begin in about a week “unless we do something pretty miraculous,” Trump said at a news conference following the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan on Saturday. “It’s really, honestly it’s very unfair, but yeah we will be removing a large number of people.”
The House passed legislation on Thursday providing $4.5 billion for border security and humanitarian aid for migrants apprehended after crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. But Trump wants Congress to make it harder for Latin American migrants crossing the southern border to claim asylum, a process most of them use to enter the U.S.
“We could do it quickly, we could do it in a day, we could do it in an hour,” Trump said. He complained about “the kind of stupidity that we have, someone touches one foot on our sand” and is entitled to an asylum claim. He said most migrants never show up for court hearings.
“Nobody comes back, 2% come back, it’s a horrible system,” Trump said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, under pressure to help relieve appalling conditions reported in migrant detention centers, agreed to let the border bill pass without an amendment demanded by liberals. They wanted to add protections for migrant children and eliminate extra money for the Defense Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I appreciate Speaker Pelosi because she really worked with us,” Trump said.
In exchange for letting the bill pass, Pelosi won an agreement from Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday that the administration would change the way migrant detention centers are run. Pence agreed to a 90-day limit for holding children in so-called “influx” facilities and promised to notify Congress within 24 hours after the death of a migrant child in U.S. custody.
At least seven migrant children are known to have died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since last year, according to NBC News. They are the first deaths of children in CBP custody in nearly a decade.
Trump also repeated a false claim that former President Barack Obama created the family separation policy for migrants that drew widespread public outrage last year before the president withdrew it.
“I’m not blaming anybody, I’m not blaming him, I’m just saying they had a separation policy and I ended it,” Trump said on Saturday.
Trump’s administration separated thousands of migrant children from their parents or caregivers last summer after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a policy, called “zero tolerance,” requiring adults crossing the border outside ports of entry to be arrested and detained.
Trump ended the family separations with an executive order in July 2018, though there have been periodic reports that the practice continues less systematically.
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