President Trump on Saturday doubled down on his tough rhetoric on MS-13 gang members, while accusing Democrats of “protecting” members of the violent gang as they “push for open borders.”
Trump made his remarks in his weekly address and as House lawmakers are negotiating legislation that would limit some forms of migration, fund border security and would also grant protected status to some illegal immigrants brought to the country as children.
But while Trump has been calling for Democrats to come to the negotiating table, he has kept up his fiery rhetoric on MS-13 -- the gang started by Central American immigrants in the 1980s and known for its particularly brutal crimes and motto: “Kill, rape, control.”
Trump caused controversy among some Democrats in May when he described MS-13 gang members as “animals.” Trump was scolded by top Democrats for his statement.
“When all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren’t 'animals,' and these people aren’t either,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, while Pelosi, D-Calif., said that “we are all God’s children.”
Since that controversy erupted, Trump has repeatedly used the term proudly.
“MS-13 gang members are truly, and you’ve heard me say it, animals.” he said on Saturday. “And yet Nancy Pelosi and Washington Democrats continue to protect them and to push for open borders.”
“They want them taken care of. They want them to be left alone,” he said.
He said that Democrats have blocked legislation that would deport gang members and are in favor of sanctuary cities that limit local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
“Democrats in Congress have opposed every measure that would close these immigration loopholes and bring this slaughter to an end,” he said.
Trump’s remarks come as the administration has taken a more aggressive approach in the face of criticism that the Department of Justice’s “zero tolerance” policy of arresting every illegal border crosser has led to the separation of families at the border.
Trump has sought to blame Democrats for the controversy, saying in a tweet Saturday that Democrats should work with Republicans to fix “their forced family breakup” at the border.
A draft of a Republican bill in the House presented to lawmakers on Thursday proposes a solution to the situation by allowing children to be kept in detention with their parents -- overturning the 1997 Flores agreement that prevents illegal immigrant children from being held in custody for long periods.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.