Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting
Cabinet Room January 2, 2019 12:04 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you all for being here and joining the first Cabinet meeting of 2019. It's going to be a very exciting year. I think it's going to be a very good year. Some people think it'll be controversial and tough, and it probably will, but we're going to get a lot done. I think we can work with the Democrats, actually, and get quite a bit done. And we're looking at infrastructure, we're looking at many things that can happen and I think that both sides want.
We just did a very big and very highly touted criminal justice reform bill, and that's a very bipartisan thing. And we finished off the year with that. We had a tremendous year in terms of achievement, whether it's regulation cuts or tax cuts, or anything else you can name. So many things. We did judges, including two Supreme Court judges and many federal bench judges. So we've had quite a time. And we're going to have, I think, six more years of great success. But I think this coming year is going to be tremendous, actually.
Every day, Border Patrol encounters roughly 2,000 illegal immigrants - I have to talk about this - trying to enter our country. Two thousand a day. And that's a minimum. Every week, 300 Americans are killed by heroin, the vast majority of which comes across through our southern border. Our southern border is like a sieve. It just pours through our southern border. And unless we're going to have physical barriers, it's never going to be able to be stopped. Too much money is being made.
Last month, 20,000 minors were illegally smuggled into the United States. In the last two years, ICE officers arrested 235,000 criminals who were able to come in over the years through the United States. And we're - we have a very tough border. I think you see that even last night, where people charged the border and tried to get through, but they couldn't because we have a wall up. But tear gas was flying, and a lot of things were happening. And I guess, for the most part, you've seen it. It's very sad.
If they knew they had a physical barrier, if they knew they had a wall, if they knew they had something that's going to stop them, they would have never come up in the first place. When you see children getting sick, they get sick on the trail up. Very sick. It's a terrible journey. It's a horrible journey. And you read the things that go on in those caravans. And if they knew they couldn't get through, they wouldn't even start.
Another one is forming in Honduras. And we've very much lowered the payments to Honduras and to a few other countries that are not playing right. Because there's no reason for caravans to be forming. They shouldn't allow it to happen.
The United States needs a physical barrier, needs a wall, to stop illegal immigration and to halt deadly inflow of drugs and crime. You have human traffickers. It's a thing that's horrible. Think of it: human trafficking. They kidnap people, they steal people, and they sell people. And because of the Internet, one of the bad things that happens with the Internet - one of the many bad things - but because of the Internet, it's the highest it's ever been in history. And this is a world problem. This isn't a United States situation; this is a world problem.
But the southern border is a very, very high - highly used placed by people that do human trafficking. How can it get worse than that?
There's a reason why politicians and wealthy people build walls around their houses and their compounds. President Obama recently built a wall around his compound. There's a reason for it. And I don't blame him.
We're in a shutdown because Democrats refuse to fund the border security. They try and make it like it's just about the wall, and it is about the wall. I said, over the weekend, to a number of people that, you know, the wheel, the wall - there are some things that never get old. It's never going to change. The wall is your number-one point of security. If we had a wall - and we will. And, by the way, for those that don't know - we don't want to talk about it all the time - but we've done tremendous amounts of renovation of existing walls and fences, and brought them back into brand-new condition. We've spent a lot of money on it doing it, and doing it properly.
So we have a lot of brand-new fencing. If you saw last night, they tried to come through a wall area. If the wall existed - if it didn't exist, you would have had hundreds of people just flowing into our country. Some of these are criminals. Some of these will split up families by killing people and hurting people very badly. But if we didn't have a form of barrier up last night, you would have a lot of people - all those people would have been able to come through.
We're in the shutdown because of the fact that the Democrats are looking to 2020. They think they're not going to win the election. I guess a lot of signs point to the fact that they're not going to win the election. And I hope they're not going to win the election. But they view this as an election point for them. I actually think it's bad politics, but I'm not thinking about the politics. I'm thinking about what's right and what's wrong. And we need a physical barrier. Everything else is bells and whistles. I know more about drones than anybody. I know about every form of safety that you can have. And it's all good, but it's just very minor compared to the power of a wall.
All of the people you see coming up, if they knew we actually had a physical presence there, a physical barrier - even when you have the soldiers, who have been fantastic; we've had our military - but when you have the military, you have Border Patrol, you have ICE, it doesn't - I mean, it's great to have, but you have 2,000 miles. You have anywhere from five- to six-hundred miles where you need the barrier. Some of it we've now completed, as you have seen and as I've told you.
But we need barrier, because you can't put a soldier every hundred yards. If you had a lot of people, you're going to put them every hundred yards - people are going to go right through. There's nothing you can do about it unless you're willing to build a wall. And walls work.
If you look at Israel - I was with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and he threw up his hands; he said, "I don't understand why they fight you on the wall." In Israel, as you know, they built a wall. He said 99.9 percent it works. And it would with us too. It would work almost 100 percent of the time, and we'd have much less of a problem. And we'd save money - so much money - on a monthly basis. Probably it would pay for itself in a month or two. Because we lose pretty close to $250 billion on illegal immigration. And I would say that it could be on a monthly, or a couple of months, it would pay for the wall, pay for what we're talking about.
The House, as you know, approved $5.6 billion. And that's a very small price to pay for total security on the southern border. The drugs alone, that nobody can even calculate it's such a big number - the money you'd save just on drugs and helping families where all of this horrible stuff doesn't come through on the southern border, right there you'd save. And you'd save a lot.
The new Pelosi bill - and, by the way, we're having, I guess they call them, the "Big Eight." So the Big Eight plus me are meeting in a little while - I think it's going to be three o' clock - to discuss the border. We have ICE and we have Border Patrol. They're going to make a plea for the wall. They need the wall. They can't do it without the wall. All they can do is add many, many more men and women.
But the protection isn't good because you're going to go to a certain area where you don't have the wall, and they're going to walk right through. Like the killing that took place a few days ago - the young police officer. Great, young, beautiful person. Great family. Just took a picture with his son and his wife at Christmas, and a few hours later he was shot and killed by somebody that just came across the border. Things like that wouldn't happen, or certainly they'd be happening far, far less.
Now, the Democrats, in the bill, want $12 billion additional for foreign aid. They want $12 billion more. It's $54.4 billion, which is, by itself, a lot. But in foreign aid, they want $12 billion over the $54 billion. Think of it: We give $54 billion - a lot of it because they want to give it. They don't even know who they're giving it to. In many cases, people don't ever - don't even know the name of the country. They know nothing about the country. And yet - so they're going to give $54.4 billion in foreign aid, but they want $12 billion more than that in foreign aid, but they won't approve $5.6 billion for a wall that's going to pay for itself almost on a monthly basis. It's just politics, folks. It's purely politics.
So we have a lot of loopholes, whether it's catch-and-release, the world's most ridiculous loophole. You catch somebody and then you release them. Now, what we're doing is we're catching and retaining. The problem is we have to build vast fields of rooms and places for these people to stay that we're catching. And it's physically not possible, nor is it possible even cost-wise. But we're catching and retaining.
You have the lottery system - the visa lottery system - where we bring people into our country based on a lottery. We want to end all of this nonsense, the visa lottery system. So they pick them out of a jar. We want to pick people to come into our country on the basis of merit and talent so that all of the companies that are moving in - we have large numbers of companies - many, many companies - more than we've seen in many years. The companies that have left our country are coming back because of what's going on. You see our job numbers are great. We need people to come in, but we can't have these loopholes. These loopholes are crazy.
One thing I have to say: DACA. We are all for DACA. The Republicans are for doing something with DACA. But it's been so misreported. We had a - the confines of a deal. And the $25 billion didn't just cover a wall; it covered a lot of border security. And we have a lot that that's been covered very incorrectly. But it's confusing to a lot of people.
But we were close to having a DACA deal, and then we had a judge rule from the Ninth Circuit - amazing ruling - and he said DACA was okay, even though when President Obama signed it, he essentially said, "Well, probably can't sign this. Probably not legal, but I'm going to sign it anyway." And so everybody thought that it was going to be easily overturned by the judge. And the judge amazingly ruled in favor of that signing, even though President Obama didn't think it was going to hold up as he signed it. He said it. Go back and check. And then you had it upheld in the Ninth Circuit, on appeal. And now it's going to the Supreme Court of the United States.
We had a deal, pretty close to being done, and lot of people say I backed away from that deal. I didn't back way. The minute the judge overruled the case and they allowed DACA, they didn't talk to us about - and I don't blame them - but they didn't answer the calls. They said, "Well, we're not going to prove that. We won the case. Why should we make a deal with DACA?"
I think it's going to overturned in the United States Supreme Court, and I think it's going to be overwhelmingly overturned. I mean, nobody thinks that should have happened. We think it was a fluke, and it was a disgraceful situation that a judge ruled a way the judge ruled. But we think it's going to be overturned. It's now going, as you probably heard two weeks ago - it's now going - it will be in the United States Supreme Court.
So if we win that case - and I say this for all to hear - we'll be easily able to make a deal on DACA and the wall as a combination. But until we win that case, they don't want to really talk about DACA, although they should, because there are those that don't want to allow DACA. I happen to think that we can do something with DACA. Mike agrees. Other people agree. Some people don't. So I think they're foolish if they don't want to make a deal with DACA. Because if we get overridden, that means everybody that's been here has to leave the country.
So there are a lot of things going on. We're very proud of what we've done with respect to the wall and the renovation that we've done. It's covered a lot of territory. A tremendous amount of miles. And that continues to go on. But we need the wall for the security of our country. People want to see it. It's about border security. And I think, in the end, we're going to be successful. We are doing so much work right now. You see it going up. It's going up all over. That's the money that we were given.
I want to thank the military because the military has been fantastic. We've been working with Pat Shanahan, who is the Acting Secretary of Defense, who has - he's been such a pleasure to work for - work with. We worked really hard over the last, actually, four or five weeks. And so much has been done not only in terms of protection, but in terms of helping us with respect to areas that we need help for physical barriers. The military has been really great. The Army Corps of Engineers has been fantastic.
And so, with that, I think what I'll do is I'll ask Pat to say a few words, and then I'm going to ask Matt and Kirstjen to say a couple of words. Maybe I'll start with Pat Shanahan.
ACTING SECRETARY SHANAHAN: Thank you, sir. And Happy New Year, everyone. Maybe just three points to share with all of you.
First is, we've been very, very closely coupled with Kirstjen, Customs and Border Patrol. I was speaking with General O'Shaughnessy, the Commander of NORTHCOM. He sends his best. The team is executing operational training every day. The collaboration has been seamless.
Kirstjen, as you know - and she's off here to our right - the National Guard has been in support, and the active duty. Maybe a shout-out: Manny Padilla, Kirstjen, has done an exceptional job. When I was talking to General O'Shaughnessy, he said Pete Flores and Kevin McAleenan. And we've just had exceptional interaction.