WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump is referring to opposition lawmakers, as well as local and state officials who oppose his immigration control agenda, as "a coalition of open borders extremists."
Trump at the White House on Monday afternoon accused opponents of waging "an unprecedented assault on American law enforcement — our greatest people," saying they are threatening Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) "for doing their duties."
According to the president, "They have no courage. They have no guts. They just have big, loud mouths."
The remarks came during an East Room event honoring law enforcement officials for bravery in combating smugglers, drug cartels and transnational criminal organizations.
"You're saving lives. You're saving a lot of Americans," Trump told the audience. "We don't play games," he said, lauding law enforcement's performance in strictly enforcing immigration laws. He said that CBP prevents "10 known or suspected terrorists" from entering the United States every day.
During remarks, the president repeatedly attacked political opponents against his immigration and border control policies.
The president specifically targeted those who have called for ICE to be abolished for alleged human rights abuses.
"We will not stand for the vile smears, the vicious attacks," said Trump. "It's going to stop today. We will never surrender to anarchy, chaos and crime."
The MS-13 criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s and has roots in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, would soon be destroyed "once and for all," predicted Trump. "We're throwing them the hell out of our country so fast your head would spin. But too many we've allowed in."
Among those attending the event, in addition to Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, were 150 officers from ICE, CBP and other law enforcement organizations.
During a panel on borders and immigration prior to the president's remarks, Senator David Perdue criticized those calling for the abolition of ICE.
"This is the United States of America. That's like saying, 'Let's get rid of the Marines,'" said Perdue, a Republican from the state of Georgia. "I just think it's unconscionable and, frankly, I think it's downright unpatriotic and treasonous."
Two possible prominent presidential contenders from the Democratic Party in 2020 — U.S. senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — are among those who have backed the call to get rid of ICE.
'Building the wall'
There was no mention at the White House event of the administration's controversial policy of separating families at the border. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 541 children remain in U.S. government care after being separated from their parents.
Cracking down on illegal immigration and fortifying the U.S. border with Mexico was a key campaign promise during Trump's successful 2016 presidential campaign and is a top priority of his administration.
Trump has threatened to shut down the government next month if Congress does not give him the resources he has demanded for border security.
"The wall is getting longer and taller and stronger each and every day," according to Trump. "We'll soon be spending about $3.2 billion, and we're looking for about $5 billion for this next coming year.
"We're building the wall, and it's not easy because we have a little opposition called the Democrats," said Trump. "They don't mind crime. It's pretty sad."
At one point, some opposition Democrats in the Senate had offered to consent to $25 billion in funding for a border wall if Trump would agree to support eventual citizenship for 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants (the so-called "Dreamers") under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program. But a possible compromise fell apart, and a political showdown now looms just months ahead of crucial midterm elections.
Trump predicted on Monday that immigration enforcement would be a key campaign theme, and his party would prevail.
"Blue wave means crime. It means open borders," said the president, predicting in the November congressional elections "more of a red wave."
Democrats are hoping to take enough seats to flip the House of Representatives in their favor. Currently, the Republicans are the majority in both the House and the Senate, allowing the president's party to control the legislative agenda.