President Donald Trump said the one thing he’s taken away from the family separation crisis on the southern border is that the detention facilities where undocumented immigrants are being held are nicer now than they were under President Barack Obama.
Trump, speaking in South Carolina Monday night, contrasted the images released by his administration with 2014 photos that have spread in recent weeks. He said the images show him the detention facilities have improved.
“What I learned was one thing: Our facilities are cleaner, better kept and better run, that’s the one thing I learned,” he said.
Trump said he sees the national uproar over immigration policy as politically advantageous for Republicans.
“I said, ‘Hey, this is fine for us,'” Trump said of the controversy. “The Democrats want open borders. They want anybody they want, including MS-13, pouring into the country. And the Democrats don’t like ICE — these are great, brave, tough people. … They don’t like Border Patrol, they don’t like your police, they don’t like anybody.”
Trump was visiting “famously hot” Columbia, South Carolina, where temperatures are expected to hover in the 90s for most of the day before he takes the stage at a rally for Gov. Henry McMaster.
Trump publicly backed McMaster after he was forced into a runoff election when he failed to clear 50% in a primary earlier this month.
Trump tweeted Monday, “Will be heading to one of my favorite places, South Carolina, to fight for one of my original ‘fighters,’ Governor Henry McMaster. Speaking at 7:00 P.M.”
Supporting McMaster has become an all-hands-on-deck effort from the Trump administration. Vice President Mike Pence ventured down to the conservative community of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Saturday to appear with McMaster.
“I’m here because we stand with Gov. McMaster,” Pence told the crowd, adding, “The result of the policies that Gov. McMaster’s been there supporting every step of the way have been nothing short of remarkable.”
As his bid for governor proceeded to a Republican primary runoff against John Warren, a 39-year-old businessman and veteran, McMaster picked up the phone and called the President, asking for his support, according to a source familiar. Trump handily won the 2016 Republican presidential primary here.
One White House official described the “easy” decision to travel to the state for McMaster, saying, “He was an early and fervent supporter of President Trump’s.” This official previewed an upcoming schedule for the President that would include “more endorsements and events” now that many of the primaries have occurred.
This person said that Trump or Pence would probably be on the trail soon for Ron DeSantis, who is running for governor in Florida; and that there also would be some engagement from Trump with GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner in Pennsylvania.
McMaster was one of the first elected officials to endorse then-candidate Trump in 2016. McMaster was at the White House in late May, where he joined a few other Republican governors for dinner to discuss protecting the US border with Mexico. McMaster has pledged South Carolina National Guard troops to help with that effort.
Perhaps the only issue on which McMaster has publicly split from the Trump administration is offshore drilling on the coast of South Carolina. A spokesman for the governor told CNN earlier this year that McMaster had appealed to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the issue.
McMaster said in a statement earlier this week, “President Trump and Vice President Pence are changing the world,” and that their willingness to campaign for him showed “a testament to the success of our great state.”
“They’ve stood by each other in the presidential race. They’re very like-minded individuals and they have a lot of the same priorities. I think that’s part of the reason why they have such a close relationship,” said campaign press secretary Carolina Anderegg. She said the two men speak “often” either personally or between their staffs. Trump called McMaster twice last week while he was on the stump.