WASHINGTON — Republican Donald Trump told a motorcycle rally on Sunday that people in the U.S. illegally often are cared for better than the nation's military veterans, without backing up his allegation.
"Thousands of people are dying waiting in line to see a doctor. That is not going to happen anymore," Trump told veterans gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the annual Rolling Thunder event, which brings thousands of motorcyclists to Washington each Memorial Day weekend.
Trump has repeated his comparison of the treatment of immigrants and veterans frequently during the campaign. Congress and many states have written an assortment of laws and policies designed to restrict government services to people living in the country illegally.
The Veterans Affairs Department, meanwhile, has come under criticism and congressional scrutiny for a number of failures, from cutting off benefits of thousands of veterans who were wrongly declared dead to chronically long wait times for medical services at VA health care sites.
The Rolling Thunder event is organized to draw attention to veterans' issues and dedicated to remembering prisoners of war and service members missing in action.
"We're with you 100 percent," Trump told the crowd.
Rolling Thunder spokeswoman Nancy Regg estimated Sunday's event drew about 5,000 people — smaller than the crowds Trump typically attracts. The large plaza between the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall had large, empty pockets with no long lines for security, despite the thousands of bikers in town for the group's ride from the Pentagon and through the streets of Washington.
Trump, who frequently boasts about his crowd size, however, claimed that 600,000 people were outside trying to get in.
"I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington monument, right? Unfortunately, they don't allow 'em to come in," Trump complained as he finished up his speech.