President Donald Trump said Friday that his long promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is “going to start soon” and is “way ahead of schedule.”
Addressing a fawning crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump repeated a regular talking point officials from his administration have used in the past, that “we’ve defended other nations’ borders while leaving ours wide open, anybody can come in.” That line prompted audience members to shout, “Build the wall,” inspiring Trump to deliver an update on the project.
“Oh, we’re going to build a wall, don’t worry about it. We’re building the wall. We’re building the wall,” he said in an apparent aside from his prepared remarks. “In fact, it’s going to start soon. Way ahead of schedule. Way ahead of schedule. Way, way, way ahead of schedule. It’s going to start very soon.”
The border wall has been a key part of Trump’s political agenda from the beginning of his presidential campaign. At the Trump Tower event in 2015 where he kicked off his candidacy, Trump devoted significant time to taking a hard-line stance on immigration and promising a border wall that the Mexican government would pay for.
Since taking office, Trump has taken steps to begin construction of the wall but seemingly has gained little traction in compelling the Mexican government to fund it. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has steadfastly held the position that his nation will under no circumstances pay for Trump’s wall, while Trump and other White House officials have insisted that the Mexican government ultimately will pay.
The back and forth between the two leaders has strained relations between the two neighbors to the point that Peña Nieto abruptly announced last month that he had canceled a visit to Washington, although the White House said the decision to cancel was mutual.
The president praised the work of his secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, telling the CPAC crowd that Kelly “has done a fantastic job.” He also defended Department of Homeland Security memos, issued earlier this week, ordering tougher enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. Trump told the audience that “we’re getting the bad ones out” and said he was only keeping his campaign promises.
Trump said that stepped-up immigration enforcement targeting “removable aliens” charged with crimes or who have committed an act that could constitute a chargeable offense is what he has promised “from Day One.” But throughout the Republican primary process, Trump in fact campaigned on a proposal that would deport every single undocumented immigrant currently in the U.S. Once he won the GOP nomination, Trump backed away from that proposal in favor of the one he claimed had been his stance all along.
“We are getting the bad ones out. These are bad dudes. We’re getting the bad ones out. OK? We’re getting the bad — if you watch these people, it’s like, ‘Oh, gee, that’s so sad.’ We’re getting bad people out of this country. People that shouldn’t be,” Trump said. “Whether it’s drugs or murder or other things. We’re getting bad ones out. Those are the ones, they go first. And I said it from Day One. Basically, all I’ve done is keep my promise.”