President Trump told "Sunday Morning Futures" that illegal immigrants are pouring into the country at unprecedented rates "because our economy is so good," and "everyone wants a piece of it" — and, he asserted, Democrats have now provided major incentives for illegal immigrants to bring children with them as a legal shield.
"You have to have Perry Mason involved" in order to fight some immigration challenges and enforce border security, Trump said, alluding to the backlog of immigration cases and a recent Ninth Circuit ruling requiring that asylum applicants be allowed to go before a federal judge.
"We’re moving people out so fast," he added. "The problem is we have to register them, we have to bring them to court. Another country just says sorry, you can’t come into our country and they walk them out. In our country you have to bring them to court, you have to have Perry Mason involved, I mean, you know, it’s all legal. You have lawyers standing at the border, our people, lawyers, wise guys standing at the border, signing people up."
Trump continued: "Every time they catch a cold they try and blame Border Patrol. It’s a disgrace what’s going on, and it could be solved in 15 minutes if the Democrats would give us the votes, it would be over."
During the dramatic broadcast live from the southern border, anchor Maria Bartiromo interviewed several purported family units — including groups with small children — as border agents apprehended them.
Once broadly panned by progressives as mere conservative hysteria amid the president's push for border wall funding, the humanitarian crisis at the border has become too apparent even for some partisans to ignore. The New York Times ran a story earlier this month entitled, "The U.S. Immigration System May Have Reached a Breaking Point," which noted that immigration courts are handling nearly 900,000 cases that each take an average of 700 days to process.
In the meantime, while their cases are pending, the family units are increasingly being dropped off at remote bus stations — largely because of the 1993 Flores consent decree, which legally prohibits detaining migrant children for more than 20 days.
"It’s a system Congress can fix — and they don’t get off their ass."
— President Trump
"What we need is new laws that don’t allow this so when somebody comes in we say sorry, you got to go out. . … We have a court system with 900,000 cases behind it. They have a court that needs to hear 900,000 cases," Trump said, referring to overloaded immigration and asylum courts. "It's a system Congress can fix — and they don't get off their ass."
Trump called the situation at the border like "Disneyland" now that purported family units cannot be separated for sustained periods. Under the administration's "no-tolerance policy," adults who crossed the border with children were charged with illegal entry into the U.S. — and, shortly afterwards, had to be separated from minors in their group under the Flores decree.
"We — we go out and we stop the separation," Trump said. "The problem is you have 10 times more people coming up with their families. It’s like Disneyland now. You know, before you’d get separated so people would say let’s not go up. Now you don’t get separated and, you know, while that sounds nice and all, what happens is you have — literally you have 10 times more families coming up because they’re not going to be separated from their children."
FILE – In this March 14, 2019, file photo, a group of migrant families walk from the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas, near McAllen, Texas, right before being apprehended by Border Patrol. U.S. border authorities say they’ve started to increase the biometric data they take from children 13 years of age and younger, including fingerprints, despite privacy concerns and government policy intended to restrict what can be collected from migrant youth. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Progressives' rhetoric on the issue will only help boost conservatives at the polls, Trump added.
"Beto O'Rourke wants to take down the walls — that means he's finished," Trump said, referring to O'Rourke's stated desire to tear down existing border barriers. "I mean, he was finished two weeks ago, when he started saying some very stupid things. Beto has been exposed. Biden has been exposed. I don't know what the hell happened to Biden."
Trump added: "I’ve – I don’t know, it just doesn’t look like the same Biden. I said is that really Joe Biden? I’ve known him for a long time, I’ve seen him for a long time. I said what happened to him? So he’s – he’s been exposed because he’s very weak."
Faced with a crush of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the country, U.S. border authorities say they've started to increase the biometric data they take from children 13 years old and younger, including fingerprints, despite privacy concerns and government policy intended to restrict what can be collected from migrant youths.
The numbers of unauthorized border crossings are surging this year, with new records being set monthly for the number of families entering the U.S. outside legal points of entry. Most are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and many adults and children who cross seek asylum under U.S. law.
The Border Patrol has warned that its holding facilities are past capacity and that it doesn't have the staff or resources to detain migrants. It will soon open two tent facilities at the Texas border for processing and detention, and immigration agencies are releasing families within a day or two to clear detention space.
"Biden has been exposed. I don’t know what the hell happened to Biden."
— President Trump
Facing pressure from Trump to reduce illegal crossings, Homeland Security officials have blamed the high numbers partly on adults posing as parents to avoid detention.
In one case filed in federal court in El Paso this month, authorities accused a Guatemalan man of having a fake birth certificate printed that claimed he was the father of a teenager who crossed the border illegally with him. Authorities say the teen agreed to go with the man because he wanted to leave Guatemala. They could not confirm the teen's age.
A Border Patrol official said this week that the agency had begun a pilot program to collect the biometrics of children with the permission of the adults accompanying them, though he did not specify where along the border it has been implemented.
The Border Patrol also has a "rapid DNA pilot program" in the works, said Anthony Porvaznik, the chief patrol agent in Yuma, Ariz., in a video interview published by the Epoch Times newspaper.
Spokesmen for the Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security did not return several messages seeking comment on both programs.
The Border Patrol says that in the last year, it's stopped roughly 3,100 adults and children fraudulently posing as families so they can be released into the U.S. quickly rather than face detention or rapid deportation.
Aaron Hull says Border Patrol resources are strained because of the humanitarian needs that family-unit aliens require.
The Department of Homeland Security has also warned of "child recycling," cases where they say children allowed into the U.S. were smuggled back into Central America to be paired up again with other adults in fake families — something they say is impossible to catch without fingerprints or other biometric data.
"Those are kids that are being rented, for lack of a better word," Porvaznik said.
But the Border Patrol has not publicly identified anyone arrested in a "child recycling" scheme or released data on how many such schemes have been uncovered. Advocates say they're worried that in the name of stopping fraud, agents might take personal information from children that could be used against them later.
"Of course child trafficking exists," said Karla Vargas, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. But she warned against implementing "a catch-all" policy that could reduce the rights of people who are legally seeking asylum.
At a round table with Trump broadcast in February, one Border Patrol official described a case he said led to eight indictments in South Carolina, including of a Guatemalan woman who said she had "recycled" children 13 times for payments of $1,500 a child. The U.S. attorney's office in South Carolina told the AP this week that case was sealed and declined to comment on it.
Meanwhile, immigrant advocates say the Border Patrol regularly cites fraud when it separates a child from an adult relative who isn't a parent, even if the relative is the child's effective guardian.
Migrants cross the border between Mexico and Guatemala, on a raft over the Suchiate river near Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas state, Mexico, Saturday, April 27, 2019. Thousands of migrants remain on the southern border of Mexico waiting for documents that allow them to stay legally in the country. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
The Texas Civil Rights Project published a study in February that counted 272 separated families at a single Texas courthouse since June, after the official end of the zero-tolerance policy that led to thousands of family separations earlier in 2018. Of those, 234 involved adult siblings, aunts and uncles, or other relatives of the children.
DHS regulations say the department can require the fingerprints of anyone entering the country illegally, but those regulations exempt anyone under 14.
Porvaznik, the chief agent in Yuma, Ariz., told the Epoch Times that under the pilot program agents can fingerprint children under 14 "if we get permission from the adult that they're with."
However, legal experts say that interpretation can be challenged in court.
"DHS may claim that they can get around this bar by getting parental permission, but that interpretation is subject to court challenge," Cornell law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr said. "To do this legally, DHS needs to go through the rulemaking process to change the regulation."
Vargas of the Texas Civil Rights Project said she often spoke to immigrant parents who had signed paperwork they didn't fully understand.
"It's never presented to immigrants as, 'You have a choice of whether or not to sign this,'" Vargas said.
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a researcher at George Mason University, said that while she has doubts about the expanded data collection, it could have an "unintended positive outcome."
"It will be easier to conduct investigations related to trafficking of migrant children, kidnapping or other crimes that affect this vulnerable segment of the migrant population," she said.
Fox News' Maria Bartiromo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.