The Obama administration is "letting people pour into the country" so they can vote this fall, Donald Trump claimed Friday.
The comments from the Republican presidential nominee came as he met with a roundtable of the National Border Patrol Council and are the latest in a series of comments casting doubt about the legitimacy of the election.
Trump was responding to comments from one of the group's leaders, Art Del Cueto, who claimed that authorities are “checking the records" of undocumented immigrants and "they’re noticing that they have criminal records but they’re setting them aside because at this point, they’re saying immigration is so tied up with trying to get people that are on the waiting list — hurry up and get them, their immigration status corrected, make them citizens....so they can go ahed and vote in this election."
“To me that’s— they’re letting people pour into the country so they can go vote,” Trump said.
“And these are professionals,” Trump said a bit later in the exchange. “These are the people that want to do it. You hear a thing like that, it’s a disgrace. I’ll tell you. Well it’ll be a lot different if I get elected.”
Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, sought to pour cold water on Trump's claim.
“As Secretary Johnson has stated repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal migration," Catron said in a statement to NBC News. "We must and we will enforce the law in accordance with our enforcement priorities. Our actions reflect that commitment.
"Under federal law, an individual must be a U.S. citizen either by birth or naturalization to vote in a federal election in the United States," Catron continued. "If a foreign national seeks to naturalize, he or she would need to meet many requirements before doing so, generally including residing in the United States as a lawful permanent resident for at least 5 years.”
But this is far from the first time Trump has raised the specter of voting by undocumented immigrants. Asked at the presidential debate whether he would accept a Hillary Clinton victory, Trump warned that the federal government had incorrectly given citizenship to 800 people who were supposed to be deported--an apparent attempt to suggest a Clinton victory could be illegitimate.
Pressed again by NBC's Lester Holt on whether he would accept a Clinton victory, Trump replied: " The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her."
But speaking to the New York Times this week, Trump appeared to back off that pledge.
“We’re going to have to see. We’re going to see what happens. We’re going to have to see," he said.
Trump has on several occasions warned that people voting multiple times and non-citizens voting could lead to a "rigged election."
"There's a lot of dirty pool played at the election, meaning the election is rigged," Trump said in an August interview with the Washington Post. "I would not be surprised. The voter ID, they're fighting as hard as you can fight so that that they don't have to show voter ID. So, what's the purpose of that? How many times is a person going to vote during the day?"
Asked whether he thinks people can vote multiple times, Trump continued: "Multiple times. How about like 10 times. Why not? If you don't have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting."
Citing these fears, Trump has urged his supporters at rallies to closely monitor the polls in "certain areas" of Pennsylvania and Michigan.
"Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don't come in and vote five times," Trump instructed a crowd in Altoona, Pennsylvania in August.
Civil rights groups and Democrats have said Trump's comments are a thinly-veiled reference to heavily minority neighborhoods, and have accused him of seeking to intimidate black voters.
Trump's claims may be having an effect. An AP poll found that half the people who have a favorable opinion of Trump say they have little to no confidence that votes will be counted fairly.
The election law scholar Rick Hasen has written that Trump's rhetoric could lead his supporters not to accept the legitimacy of a Clinton victory, with disastrous results for out democracy.
"One of the things we take for granted is that even in tumultuous times when elections are hard fought, the losers concede the election and embrace the process, even if things did not go well," Hasen wrote. "Donald Trump threatens that peace."