WASHINGTON — Eleven days before President Trump erupted in anger at his homeland security secretary in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, he complained at a rally in Michigan about what he called “the dumbest immigration laws anywhere on earth.”
Six days later, he told the National Rifle Association about “deadly immigration loopholes,” “horrible killer gang members” and “laws that were written by people that truly could not love our country.”
And hours after berating his secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, for failing to secure the border, Mr. Trump headed to Indiana, where he vented that Democrats have given the country “the worst immigration laws in the history of mankind.”
Mr. Trump’s fury at Ms. Nielsen was a long time coming, White House officials said. They described it as part of the president’s longstanding desire to close the United States’ borders and part of his increasing belief that his administration is moving too slowly to make good on the central promise of his 2016 presidential campaign.
The courts and Congress have resisted his demands, and even his own staff keeps telling him no. As a result, the president brings up the issue constantly, in private and public, as if the power of persuasion can change the reality on the ground.
“The president has every right to be frustrated,” said Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates tough restrictions on immigration. “He wants people around him who can get around the bureaucracy and overcome the deep state and make things happen.”
But Frank Sharry, the president of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group, said that Mr. Trump’s anger revealed ignorance about the cyclical nature of illegal border crossings into the United States.
Early in the president’s term, Mr. Sharry noted, Mr. Trump repeatedly cited his own tough messaging and initial actions on immigration — including announcing a travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries — as the reason for a big drop in people crossing the Mexican border.
“You see what’s happened: 61 percent down now in terms of illegal people coming in,” Mr. Trump said at a union conference in April 2017. “Way, way down in terms of drugs pouring into our country and poisoning our youth. Way down.”
Those numbers have since risen to more normal levels, pro-immigration groups speculate, because illegal immigrants were initially stunned by the president’s early messaging but are now disregarding it. In March and April this year, about 50,000