The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
January 3, 2019

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.

The second is -- and you highlighted it -- restoration of the fences, building out of additional mileage for the wall. The Army Corps of Engineers is dialed in on doing this cost-effectively, quickly, and with the right amount of urgency as to where we can build additional standup walls quickly and then get after the threat. The threat is real. The risks are real. We need to control our borders.

And maybe the third piece I would share with you is that we're doing additional planning to strengthen the support that we're providing to Kirstjen and her team.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, your people have been fantastic. And you've headed it up, and I have to say they really have done a great job.

And again, we want to finish it. We want to complete it. Because you can't have a partial wall, because people come through the area that's not built. But the areas that are built, nobody is getting through. You can't get through, unless you're a world-class pole-vaulter in the Olympic team. It's very hard to get through. Very few people are able to get through. And you have done really -- in particular, you have done a fantastic job.
And while we're on you, as you know, I just back from Iraq. We had a fantastic meeting with the generals and the Syria situation. I mean, I'm the only person in the history of our country that could really decimate ISIS, say we're bringing the troops back home over a period of time. I never said so quickly, but over a period of time. But everybody gives me credit for decimating ISIS.

So we do that, and we say we're going to bring the troops back home, where they belong. I've been campaigning on that for a long time, before I won. A big part of my campaign: I want to bring our troops back from the endless wars. We have endless wars. They've been going on for 19 years in the area. But I'm going to bring them home from Syria.
So I'm the only one that can do that and get bad publicity. They say, "He's bringing them home." Because let me tell you, when I took over Syria, they were supposed to be there for three to four months, Pat, and they ended up being there for five years. So that's a little bit different than you thought. But they were supposed to be there for a short period of time. They've been there for a long time. And we have done a real job.

But we are continuing to fight. We never let anybody down. And there was a lot of misinterpretation, but I think you'll see at the end, that's working out. We're bringing our troops back home. We're doing things that are very excited, that I really -- very exciting, that I can't talk about, that I don’t want to talk about. They're very exciting. A lot of great people understood it. Lindsey Graham understood it. Some others understood it.

But what we're doing is the right thing to do. And in many respects, it's very exciting because I like winning. When I took over Syria, Syria was a mess. It was riddled -- I think you could say this better than anybody -- it was riddled with ISIS. And now, everybody says it's down to 1 percent of the land, and sometimes, you could even say, less. One percent. That place was a mess. It was terrible.

But we also have to have to other countries fighting ISIS. You know, we're helping by doing this. People say Russia and Iran. We're helping them. Everything we do over there helps them. They don’t like seeing us leave because we're knocking out ISIS. Let them fight ISIS too. We're spending all of this money. I want to spend money in our country.

But we've had a tremendous success in Syria. We're slowly bringing people back and bringing them back. We're hitting the hell out of them, the ISIS people. And we are doing something that, frankly, if I would have told you two years, when we first came into office, that we would have had that kind of success, nobody would have believed it. They would have said you're exaggerating; it's not possible.

But we're down to final blows. And those generals were fantastic. When we met with the generals in Iraq, they were really fantastic. They really know their business.

So we have a lot of exciting things to talk about militarily. We've had a lot of victories.
I just got a great letter from Kim Jong Un. And those few people that I've shown this letter to -- they've never written letters like that. This letter is a great letter. We've made a lot of progress with North Korea and Kim Jong Un. And Chairman Kim has been -- we've had a -- we've really established a very good relationship. A lot of good things are happening.

And I never said speed. Look, it's been this way for 80-plus years. We had our meeting six months ago, in Singapore. We'll probably now have another meeting. He'd like to meet; I'd like to meet. But we've established a very good relationship. We're given no credit for it.
You know, frankly, if this administration didn’t take place, if another administration came in instead of this administration -- namely Mike and myself, and the group around this table -- you'd be at war right now. You'd be having a nice, big, fat war in Asia. And it wouldn’t be pleasant. And instead of that, we're getting along fine. I'm not in any rush. I don’t have to rush. All I know is there's no rockets; there's no testing.
In fact, I watched, last night, PBS. I haven’t seen it in a while, PBS. And I just noticed -- you know, I was in the White House all by myself for six, seven days. It was very lonely. (Laughter.) My family was down in Florida. They were all -- I said, stay there and enjoy yourself. But I felt I should be here just in case people wanted to come and negotiate the border security.
But I have to say that I was watching PBS, and they really covered it accurately. They said that, in Chairman Kim's speech, he really wants to get together. He wants to denuclearize. And a lot of good things are happening. They covered it very, very nicely. I was surprised, based on everything I've heard about them. I'll have to start watching PBS much more. (Laughter.) But they covered it very accurately. And I actually put a quote out last night about what they said. But that was very accurate.

They really do want to do something. Now, does that mean it's going to be done? Who knows? Who knows? Deals are deals. You never know. But I tell you, we have -- we've established a very good relationship with North Korea. That was going to be a war. That could've been a World War III, to be honest with you, because that would’ve -- a lot of people would have had to get involved in that, all over Asia, and then it spreads beyond Asia. And instead, we have somebody that I really think wants to get on to the economic development and making a lot of success and money, frankly, for his country. Because North Korea has tremendous potential, and we'll help them out too. But North Korea has tremendous economic potential.

And so I look forward to our meeting with Chairman Kim. We'll set that up. We'll be setting it up in the not-too-distant future.

And with that, I'll ask Secretary Nielsen -- we'll get back on to the border -- to say a few words. Please, Secretary.

SECRETARY NIELSEN: Sure. Good afternoon, Mr. President. So I'm in San Diego reviewing our border security and immigration efforts.
Is it working? Can you all hear me?


SECRETARY NIELSEN: Okay. And as you've described, sir, in fact this is a humanitarian security crisis. We're doing our best out here. I always want to take the opportunity to thank the great men and women of the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.

But the system itself is simply overwhelmed. This is my 17th -- around 17th trip to the border in the last year. And I can tell you, unfortunately, the crisis is getting worse. Our immigration system is simply badly broken.

So let me start by saying, from a DHS perspective, Mr. President, now more than ever we need the wall. Today I'm going to talk quickly about how bad the crisis has gotten. But to fix it, we need what our frontline operators are demanding, which is a barrier that will keep illegal aliens, drugs, criminals, terrorists, and other threats from entering our country.

Walls work. As you said, it's not a political issue; it's an operational one. We've seen the successes of walls in El Paso, in Yuma, in San Diego, and in El Centro Sector.

Under your leadership, we're building the first new wall in over a decade, but we need more. We need new sections of wall at our top illegal entry points -- something that Congress unfortunately prohibited us from doing last year in our appropriations. And we also need to continue to replace the old, outdated, and ineffective wall sections that you referenced. We need to replace them with wall that has been identified for operational purposes by the professional men and women of CBP, not by uninformed political restrictions that have been put on our appropriations.

As you know, the southern border remains a principal entry point for both cocaine and methamphetamine entering the United States. And seizures in both narcotics are spiking. We've also seen, unfortunately, an increase in fentanyl coming across the southern border, which kills about 72,000 Americans every year.

The southern border is also the primary entry point for criminals and gang members. Just last year, we apprehended more than 17,000 criminals and 1,000 gang members along the southern border.
We are also concerned about potential terrorists as well, as you know. In 2018 alone, we apprehended 3,000 special-interest aliens coming into our country along the southern border. These are aliens that have travel patterns or other characteristics of concern to the intelligence community.
Mr. President, we need a strong border wall system to keep these threats and others out of the U.S. And I strongly support your continued efforts to obtain the needed resources from Congress.
And if I could, let me just give you a little bit more about the crisis. We also need to address poorly written and outdated laws. Simply put, our laws allow illegal aliens into the country and allows them to stay. This must change.
Here is the reality of the crisis we're facing: On average, as you've said, we see about 2,000 people a day try to illegally enter our country at the southern border. We'll never be able to send the majority of them back home unless, and until, Congress acts to close the loopholes these people are exploiting to stay in the country.
To break it down, there are three categories of illegal aliens arriving at our border: single adults, family units, and unaccompanied children. In the past, single adults have been the vast majority of illegal aliens. They're still the easiest for us to handle. We're able to detain and deport them quickly. Under your administration, Mr. President, we've dramatically ramped up prosecutions of these illegal border crossers with help from the Department of Justice. And we will continue to do so.

But the demographics are changing, and the vast majority of the people that we see now are family units and unaccompanied children. They now make up about two-thirds of those arriving at our borders. Because of poorly written laws and (inaudible) decisions, it's virtually impossible to send them home.

We're only allowed, as you know, to hold families for 21 days. That's it. Then we have to let them go, under the law. Most of them then disappear into the United States. What's worse: In 9 out of every 10 cases, immigration judges find that these families are not even eligible for asylum in the first place and should be deported. But by then, most of them have vanished and escaped the law.

Smugglers and traffickers know this. In fact, they know our immigration laws much better than many members of Congress. They are using this as a fast pass to get illegal aliens into America. The result is an explosion in the number of families arriving at our borders, and a massive spike in the number of fake families showing up. They know if they pretend they're together, they're likely to get in for good.
And quickly, the third category is unaccompanied children. Because of outdated laws, we cannot send kids to show up alone back to their home countries and to their families. They have to be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, which places them with sponsors or relatives in America.

The result is we see more and more of them every day. Parents are making the unconscionable decision to send children on long, dangerous, and sometimes deadly journeys to our country. We are busting at the seams. HHS is out of capacity. And under the law, CBP must transfer these kids to HHS.
These loopholes serve as a giant magnet, which is now resulting in a humanitarian catastrophe. Our system was simply not built to handle this influx of families and children. The human toll is real and shocking. Women are being trafficked and raped. In fact, 1 out of 3 women report they are sexually assaulted on the journey to our borders. Kids are getting abused. They're getting sick -- very sick. Many of them are being recycled and used by smugglers to get more people into the United States. And nearly 70 percent of illegal aliens report being victims of violence along the journey. Seventy percent of those traveling north to our country.

Our hearts break for families who have lost children and those who are affected by this violence. We're doing everything we can to ensure rapid medical care when needed. But the men and women of CBP and ICE are doing the best they can with what they have, but they don’t have the facilities, the resources, or the legal authorities to keep up with this crisis. Only Congress can give them that.

So, sir, the bottom line, as you know and as you've repeatedly stated: We need Congress to fund and build the wall, give us the resources to deal with this crisis, terminate the Flores Agreement, and grant DHS the authority to detain and remove illegal family unit aliens together, and modify the TVPRA so unaccompanied children can be returned home to their families.

Right now, our Border Patrol and ICE agents are spending so much of their time dealing with the overflow that we're having to pull them off important national security cases, counter-drug operations, and more. We can't afford to do this any longer.

I want to close by thanking the whole of your administration, the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, HHS, CDC, OMB, and others. We are all working together to address this security and humanitarian crisis.

Mr. President, you have brought the rule of law back to our border. The men and women of DHS could not be prouder to be given the opportunity to do the jobs that Congress and the American people expect. But we need Congress to act. We cannot continue to do more with less and attempt to secure our country with our hands tied behind our back.

Thank you for your leadership and your continued focus as we work with Congress to try to address this.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. That's a really fantastic presentation, and I appreciate it. And you have been working very hard. You've been down there. Every time I call, you're at a different location along the border trying to straighten it out.

If we had a wall or a barrier that was not penetrable, you wouldn’t have people making that journey. And I think we can say that, Kirstjen, if we had the wall, people wouldn’t even bother making the journey, because the journey is tremendously dangerous -- horribly dangerous. And children are getting sick. They're being accosted.
You heard what the Secretary said about all of the crime and rape and everything else that takes place during that horrible journey. If they thought they couldn’t get in, they wouldn’t be making the journey.

And again, we want people coming into our country. We need people to come into our country, but they have to do it through the system. They have to go -- they have to do it legally. And we want people coming that can help our country; that can -- where it can be based on merit and achievements; people that are going to help the companies that are coming into our country, which are so many.

So I want to thank you, Secretary. It was a great presentation. Thank you very much. We really appreciate it.

Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker? Please.

ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL WHITAKER: Sir, Mr. President, I will start by highlighting the fact that you stayed in Washington, D.C. over the holidays, giving up Christmas with your family, New Year's with your family, trying to bring an end to this shutdown, and security to our southern border, while members of Congress -- some members of Congress went on vacation and ignored the problem.

You have demonstrated your dedication to delivering on this critical issue for our country and for the American people. But Congress has to act. They have to fund the wall. It is undeniable that a border wall improves the security of our southern border. A wall would reduce the flow of drugs, gangs like the violent MS-13, and criminals across our border, like you highlighted the brave officer who was a legal immigrant, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant in California.

It would reduce the incentives for individuals who attempt to enter illegally, and restore integrity to our immigration system. Also, we need Congress, as Secretary Nielsen pointed out, to close the loopholes in our immigration laws. Not only do the loopholes in our laws frustrate DHS's ability to enforce our immigration laws, including the TVPRA and the judicial rulings that prevent DHS from detaining family units together, but these loopholes overwhelmingly contribute to a substantial number of meritless cases languishing in our immigration courts.

During the shutdown, and afterwards, the Department of Justice will continue to do everything within our power to support both DHS in its critical mission and address illegality at the border. Illegality will not go unchecked. We will continue to prosecute aliens for committing immigration-related crimes, like illegal reentry and illegal entry, which are at record levels for prosecution currently in your administration. And we will never let up.

We will continue these efforts targeting transnational organized crime and criminal gangs, like MS-13. The immigration courts are working. We have been completing cases at levels we haven’t seen in years. We have over 400 immigration judges on board, and we are hiring more. And we are restoring the rule of law to our immigration court system.

We will continue to do everything we can, and we are seeing tremendous progress. But the number of cases originating from the border are overwhelming the system. We will continue to defend our actions and your administration's actions in federal court, as well.

This administration has taken strong action to restore legality to our immigration system. But advocates continue to try to frustrate us in federal courts. We will prevail.

And finally -- and I cannot stress this more -- that we need Congress to act, to show up, to negotiate with you, and to solve these challenges that our country faces. The Department of Justice will work every day to support this administration, to support DHS, and to support HHS. But we need Congress to do something instead of just going on vacation and avoiding the issue.

We need Congress to fund the wall, fund the government, and close the loopholes in our laws. If Congress wants to have catch-and-release at the border, and more drugs, gangs, and crime to come into our country, it can continue to refuse to provide the funds that we need to build the wall, and it can continue to refuse to close the loopholes in our immigration laws. That is the choice here, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: That's great, Matt. Thank you very much. So true. And you mentioned one thing about courts -- and I know you're hiring judges -- but we're one of the only countries that anybody knows of where if you step one foot into our country, you now have a court case. Other countries, you step a foot, and they say "get out." They put you out -- or worse. With our country, if you're able to put a foot onto our land, basically that's what catch-and-release is, even beyond that. But now you end up with lawyers and judges and things. It's so ridiculous.

This is the system that we have. And nobody pointed it out until we came along. So you end up in a court case to tell somebody -- normally, it's like, "Hey, you're on our land. We don’t want you. And you have to come through legally. Get out."

No, we catch, we do paperwork. We bring them to court. You can never have enough judges because you're talking about thousands -- tens of thousands of people. You end up in trials, but the trials don’t take place, because what they have to do -- because it's impossible to hold all of it. This is by law. This is by these idiotic laws given to us by -- largely by the Democrats, mostly by the Democrats, that we can change in one hour, if people got together.

So we end up with court cases for people that just happened to step a foot on our land. You can't take care of them. You're talking tens of thousands. I think we have close to 800,000 pending lawsuits. And what happens -- these people disappear into the United States, never to show up for their case, which ends up coming back in about three, four years, five years, and even longer. It is the most ridiculous system.

We should be able to say, "Sorry, you can't come in. You have to come in legally." End. That's your court case. What we have done with asylum and all of this -- we're trying to be the nicest people on Earth, and it's destroying our country. And I think, honestly, if I didn’t come along, nobody would even be talking about it, and it would be just as bad. But our country gets eaten alive by what's happening at our southern border. So we've got to do something about it, and we're doing it now. That's what we're doing.

And one of the things we can do is the wall, because we won't have problems. It will take care of a large number of the problems. Even the changing of some of the laws won't be nearly as important, because a lot of people won't come up because they know they can't get through. And if they do come up, they can't get through.

One of the other things I'd like to mention is I had a very successful meeting, about a month ago, with President Xi in Argentina. The President of China. And he and I had a meeting that was going to be 45 minutes; it lasted close to four hours. It was very successful.

One of the things I asked him to do was fentanyl, if you would criminalize it, because it's not criminal. And China has very strong criminal penalties. It's called the death penalty. If you would criminalize fentanyl, it would really help us, because we're losing 80,000 people a year with fentanyl. Eighty thousand. Think of what 80,000 people. That's like a football stadium full of people a year, from taking this horrible drug, most of which comes out of China.

And he's agreed to criminalize it. That was a big statement. He agreed immediately. And, by the way, it wasn’t a long negotiation. It was really a negotiation on trade, which is coming along very well. We'll see what happens. But before I started with trade, I talked about fentanyl. And he agreed to criminalize it and criminalize it at the highest level, which means, I assume, death penalty. So that's going to be put into effect fairly soon, and that should have an amazing impact on the fentanyl coming into our country, which is, right now, just about the worst thing we have coming in. It's nothing worse. It's just -- that stuff is really brutal and really terrible. So I want to thank President Xi of China.

Rick Perry is here, and he was a great governor of Texas for a long time. Knows probably more about the border than anybody. This is a little unexpected, but I see you here, Rick. I'd like to have your feelings on the barriers that we have to put up. I know you feel very strongly about it, and you know the area very well.

SECRETARY PERRY: I think, Mr. President, your focus on this is really important. While I was the governor, I tried with very poor results to get the previous administration to recognize the lack of support that the state of Texas was getting. And we ran numerous operations along the border.
Mr. Vice President, you as the governor, we talked about it at Governor Association meetings, about the challenge that we had with that 1,200-mile border. Two-thirds of the border is, of course, with Texas and Mexico, and the United States and Mexico.

But the challenge has always been the lack of support from Washington, D.C. To have a chief executive finally recognize that it's going to take Washington acting to address this issue is really heartening, from my perspective, having basically been ignored for those eight years, as I was the governor in the previous administration.
But it's this message that comes that -- from the media, from those that, for whatever reason, don’t want to secure that border -- that you can come and be rewarded. That's got to stop. And one of the ways to do that is obviously with a clear message to those that are trying to use that border as access into the United States is there's not a reward anymore. Don’t come.

When the summertime gets here, the humanitarian issue here, Mr. President, that all too often doesn’t get talked about -- I mean, the lives that are lost in Mexico, in the desert southwest, in that region of Texas that is incredibly inhospitable, when you're out there trying to cross it. I mean, that's the heart-rending side of this story, Mr. President, that you're trying to address here.
And, you know, I know here, over the course of the last couple of weeks, there's been some stories about young people who lost their lives. A couple of young people who lost their lives. And our hearts go out for them. But what about the, literally, hundreds of people who have died trying to cross that border because of the incentive that people have given them -- all of these different incentives to come and penetrate that border? And you're standing up and saying, "Don't come. Don't put your family in jeopardy."

You know, I'd personally like to see the media really get focused on those stories, about what you're doing to stop that type of danger and, frankly, hostility to these individuals.
Building that border security is the most powerful message that we can send. But the most powerful message is from the Chief Executive of the United States standing up and saying, "Congress, you got a responsibility, a duty, to protect and defend the people of this country." I'm sitting here ready to negotiate with you. I'm sitting here ready to find the solution to deal with this horrendous condition that we find in this country.

All they need to do is come and sit down with you, Mr. President. I know where your heart it. I know where the people around this table's heart is. We're ready to find a solution to this issue of illegal immigration, of drug trafficking, of potential terrorist activity along that southern border. And we've got the expertise. All we need is the will from Congress to come. And we'd be more than happy to partner up with them and find a solution to this.

THE PRESIDENT: That's really great. Thank you very much. And they'll be here, I guess, at three o' clock. So we'll see what happens. We'll see what comes of it.

You know, I have to say that it would be a lot easier if I never took up this issue, if I just left it the way it was, where people stream into the country. And we've had tremendous difficulties. If you look at the numbers, you look at the crimes, you look at what we do, what we're doing now -- we're taking out thousands and thousands of people that are in, as an example, MS-13, the gang -- it's a brutal gang, a vicious gang. They love using knives because they're far more painful than guns. And what they do to people is incredible. And we're moving them out by the thousands. People don’t talk about that. We're moving them out by the thousands. They came here over years, and they've taken over towns in Long Island and other places. They're bad people.

And we're doing tremendous -- I mean, we're doing big numbers. They don’t like Donald Trump, I can tell you tha