Erin Schaff/The New York Times
SAN ANTONIO, Tex. — President Trump said on Wednesday that migrants pouring across the border with Mexico are dying in great numbers while other gang members arriving from Central America are marauding and threatening American ranchers.
The president used a high-dollar fund-raiser here to call attention to a situation that he said has been ignored in the media: the plight of migrants who cross illegally into the United States and then die of thirst or hunger.
“This never comes out in the fake news,” Mr. Trump said as he recounted the stories about migrants that about a dozen donors told him privately at his first stop in a visit to Texas that will take him to Houston later in the day. At Mr. Trump’s urging, several of the donors described finding the bodies of migrants — including pregnant women and children — in the vast brush of their property.
The president said that he had never heard the stories of migrants dying, even from his top immigration and border patrol officials. In fact, migrant advocates have for years documented the grim fate of some migrants who grow sick and die attempting to make it into the United States. The advocates say Mr. Trump’s policies have made the problem worse by limiting the number of migrants who can legally claim asylum at ports of entry, pushing more migrants to cross at remote areas of the border.
Several of the donors also told of how afraid they have felt when migrants from Central America, dressed in black, turned up at their homes.
“Dangerous people are coming here and the good people are dying,” Mr. Trump said, adding that the donors had all told him that the answer to the problem was to build his wall along the border with Mexico.
The president, who was joined at the round table with donors by Brad Parscale, his 2020 campaign manager, denied that the unscheduled remarks to reporters about the border were part of a campaign message. But moments later, as he attacked Democrats for failing to address border security, Mr. Trump said that immigration would be a tremendous issue for him and other Republicans in the 2020 campaign.
“I think they are going to pay a very big price in 2020,” Mr. Trump said. “I think the border is going to be an incredible issue. They want to have open borders.”
The issue of immigration and border security has been at the center of Mr. Trump’s political life for years. Fifteen days before the 2018 midterm elections, he held a rally in Texas to deliver dire warnings about immigration that helped Ted Cruz, the embattled Republican senator, win his campaign for a second term.
In the five months since he barnstormed the country declaring that an “invasion” of dangerous migrants was imminent, Mr. Trump has intensified his focus on immigration. He and his strategists believe that no issue better fires up his core supporters and proves that he has kept his campaign promises. The issue is certain to be at the center of the president’s case for a second term in the Oval Office.
In the last several days, Mr. Trump has forced out Kirstjen Nielsen, his Homeland Security secretary, and several other top immigration officials for being too timid about shutting down the border and changing asylum rules to deny entry to migrants seeking protection in the United States. A top administration official said Tuesday that the staffing changes were designed to make way for more aggressive immigration actions.