Donald Trump sought in a speech in Nevada on Saturday to shift blame for the separation of immigrant children and their parents – and the pictures and recordings of ensuing distress that dominated world media this week – to his predecessors, George W Bush and Barack Obama.
As he did so, Democratic members of Congress demanded answers about how such children would be reunited with their mothers and fathers.
Trump was speaking at the end of a dismal week that saw uproar over his “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in more than 2,300 minors being separated from their parents before he backed down and ended the policy on Wednesday, signing an executive order that nominally though not conclusively halted the practice.
In a half-hour speech to a state Republican convention in Las Vegas, he offered nothing about how the families might be reunited.
“Everybody sees but this is the same sight that Obama had, that Bush had: same sight,” the president said. “It’s the same thing. In fact they said, ‘Look at this sight, look at President Trump, look at this picture.’ Excuse me, it was 2014 and it was President Obama. OK?”
He added: “Our people are actually doing a very good job handling a very difficult situation but this is a problem that should have been solved years ago,” the president said. “So we’re working very hard. The fact is we need more Republicans because the Democrats are obstructionists. They won’t vote.”
Trump acknowledged that immigration is an election issue. “Our issue is: strong borders, no crime. Their issue is: open borders, let [the gang] MS-13 all over our country. That’s what’s going to happen if you listen to them.”
He also criticised a Senate plan to hire more judges to deal with immigration cases, saying he wants more border patrol agents instead. He warned: “We will have millions and millions of people pouring through our country with all of the problems that would cause with crime and schools … If they see any weakness, they will come by the millions.”
Trump was in Nevada to help Republican senator Dean Heller raise money for a crucial election. He mocked Heller’s opponent, congresswoman Jacky Rosen, as “Wacky Jacky” and repeated a racial slur against Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Wacky Jacky is campaigning with Pocahontas, you believe this? In your state!”
The president was accompanied on the trip west by his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who sparked fury this week by dismissing a story about a…