President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his executive order on immigration enforcement, saying he didn’t want to “shut down the border” or “shut out all immigrants.”
“There’s a lot of people who have been affected, but I don’t want them to be put in an impossible position,” Trump told reporters at the White House, adding that “they will be rewarded.”
The president made the remarks while responding to a question about a report in the Wall Street Journal that his administration was considering the reinstatement of a federal law requiring sanctuary cities to enforce federal immigration laws.
The policy was put in place in response to a surge of unaccompanied children and other migrant children fleeing Central America.
The law, enacted in 1996, is also known as the Secure Communities Program.
Trump’s administration, however, has been pushing back on the legality of the policy, which it has defended as a necessary response to an immigration crisis that has left hundreds of thousands of migrants without legal status.
“I’ve said before, it’s not a good thing,” Trump said.
“We’re going to take care of them, they’re going for their lives.
But they will not be put into an impossible situation.
We’re not going to be shutting down the borders.
We’ll give them the right to come over, we’ll help them, we have a wonderful system.
But we’re not shutting them down.”
Trump also argued that sanctuary cities and counties that refuse to comply with federal immigration law are violating federal law.
“If we have to have a massive border wall, I think we should build it in Mexico,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, “but if they don’t like it, they can stay home.”
“I won’t even talk about it.
We don’t need it in our country,” Trump added.”
It’s a very complicated thing,” he added, “and I think I’ve been very clear about it.”
Trump’s rhetoric on the issue has drawn widespread criticism from civil rights groups and immigrant advocates, including a letter signed by more than 250 civil rights and immigrant rights leaders calling on the president to immediately end the executive order and “immediately reverse the actions taken by your administration.”
“We will not tolerate you violating the civil rights of our fellow citizens,” the letter said.
Trump also spoke about his plans to build a border wall and said that “if I am elected president, I will do everything in my power to secure the border.”
“If the wall is not built, then we will have to come up with a new one, and we will,” Trump continued.
“And if we have not built the wall, then I will be building it.”