President Donald Trump continued to stress the importance of having a border security wall on Friday during a roundtable discussion about stopping human trafficking.
Trump has long fought to secure the border by building a physical wall across it.
His commitment to building a wall and the equally steadfast opposition he’s faced is what led to a budget dispute that caused the recent record-long government shutdown.
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The president and his opponents are continuing to fight even as another potential shutdown looms weeks from now.
“My administration has made the fight against human trafficking one of our highest priorities,” Trump said.
“We’re watching closer than ever before. We’re studying people who are doing it, we’re following them. We’re catching them. But our job could be made a lot easier if we had support for the incredible people, law enforcement folks, at the southern border.”
Several members of the administration as well as experts joined Trump for the discussion at the White House.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, former department special agent Timothy Ballard, former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Deputy Assistant Director Anthony Scandiffio were among those who attended.
“Our progress will be limited if we don’t secure our porous border and put an end to the human trafficking and humanitarian crisis that is taking place at the southern border,” Trump said. “It is indeed a crisis, and you know what we have now is an invasion. If you look at what’s going on with the caravans, it’s an invasion. There are three caravans headed our way. If we had a wall, it wouldn’t even be a problem.”
The administration has expressed concerns over bad actors who might be hidden within the caravans before. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that some individuals within the caravan are gang members or have significant criminal histories.
Seven unaccompanied minors were also rescued from human smugglers who were working inside one of the migrant caravans this past fall.
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Trump also noted he’s sent 2,500 troops down to the southern border to assist the personnel there. He began sending additional support to the border in the latter half of last year during an earlier wave of migrant caravan arrivals.
Many of those migrants are still on the border waiting to be processed as the new caravans approach.
“Unsecured borders give human traffickers free passage to transport their victims into the United States,” Trump said. “It’s a tremendously big money maker for some very bad people. In fiscal year 2018, ICE made over 1,500 human trafficking arrests with 97 percent of that for sex trafficking.”
Trump has worked hard to prevent the migrants from crossing the southern border illegally. The issue is that many migrants claim asylum after already getting caught in the country illegally.
His administration has made the migrants from earlier caravans wait across the border while their asylum claims are assessed for legitimacy.
“We’re building a lot of walls right now as we speak and we’re renovating a lot of walls,” Trump said later on in the meeting. “We’re getting ready to give out some pretty big contracts with money we have on hand and money that comes in. But we’ll be looking at a national emergency because I don’t think anything is going to happen. I don’t think Democrats want border security.”
During previous administrations, the illegal immigrants were often released a short time after claiming asylum. They would then be asked to return for a court date to determine their claims — with no guarantee they would show up.
Trump is hoping to avoid that problem by deterring them from illegally entering the country.
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