President Trump blasted those calling for the abolition of ICE as cowardly “loud mouths,” and demanded Monday that governors and mayors pick sides between federal immigration agents and the chaos of “open borders extremists.”
He also warned of a wave of crime should Democrats win control of Congress this year, predicting “terror, bloodshed and suffering” in communities that refuse to cooperate on federal enforcement efforts.
It was the clearest statement yet of Mr. Trump’s intention to make November’s elections a choice between his enforcement-heavy approach to immigration and the Democratic left wing, which has called for a stand-down by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Blue wave means crime. It means open borders — not good,” Mr. Trump said at the White House, where he hosted “heroes” from ICE and sister agency Customs and Border Protection.
He delivered a three-pronged attack, leading with a letter to state and local officials telling them they either stand with ICE or with the “anarchist protesters” who are agitating against the agency.
His campaign fired off an email to supporters urging them to get fired up to stop “the open borders mob” in the elections.
And the White House hosted leaders and line officers and agents from ICE and CBP, with Mr. Trump highlighting their stories and even asking several to detail recent arrests that netted human smugglers, gang members and other criminals.
The president has increased his attention to immigration as the election nears — and as some Democrats take an increasingly strident stance against enforcement.
Several polls earlier this summer found that immigration was the top issue on voters’ minds ahead of the election, topping usual mainstays of health care and the economy.
Who the issue plays better for, though, remains in question.
Immigrant-rights activists say Democrats have the upper hand, predicting Hispanic voters in particular will turn out to reward Democrats for supporting legal status for immigrants who crossed the border illegally — and to punish Mr. Trump and his party for highlighting deportations.
But a Reuters/Ipsos poll released in July that showed immigration topmost in voters’ minds found that Republicans are more passionate about the issue, with 26 percent saying it was the most important matter in determining their vote. Mr. Trump’s framing of the issue as a choice between enforcement or “open borders” feeds that.
Mr. Trump took aim Monday at the mayor in Portland, Oregon, who in June told local police to stand down as anarchist protesters blockaded ICE’s building in the city. ICE officers said employees were threatened, and business was halted for weeks while protesters raged, demanding ICE be abolished.
The president said the protesters are a small minority of the public, but they capture an outsized amount of attention from the press.
“They have no courage, they have no guts; they just have big, loud mouths,” he said.
Among those the president cited as a hero was Border Patrol Agent Adrian Anzaldua, who was operating a highway checkpoint when a truck with 78 immigrants stashed inside tried to pass through illegally earlier this month.
Agent Anzaldua said his dog alerted to the truck, so he opened the latch on the trailer and revealed the dozens of people. He said they were all in good condition.
But the president drew criticism online when he commented that the agent shouldn’t be nervous to talk because he “speaks perfect English.”
Mr. Trump also invited jabs for bungling the initials of Customs and Border Protection, which he repeatedly referred to as “CBC.”