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Trump holds White House event focused on 'American victims of illegal immigration'

After a week under fire over immigration policy, President Trump defended his approach, arguing that a border crackdown was needed for public safety reasons.
Trump, who often highlighted the stories of "angel families" on the campaign trail, returned to the topic at the White House Friday.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images

President Donald Trump ended a week of criticism of his administration's now-reversed policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border Friday with another event highlighting the stories of Americans whose family members had been killed by undocumented immigrants.

The president blasted the news media, Democrats and other critics at the event, accusing them of ignoring the plight of "the American victims of illegal immigration," while the victims' families, called Angel Families, stood behind him holding poster-sized photos of their deceased relative.

"You know you hear the other side, you never hear this side. You don't know what's going on," Trump said. "These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones. The word permanently being the word that you have to think about. Permanently."

"They're not separated for a day or two days, they are permanently separated. Because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens. These are the families the media ignores," he said.

The event came two days after the president — facing widespread criticism, including from many within his own party — signed an executive order ending his own policy administration of splitting thousands of migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border, though thousands of kids still remain separated.

Trump, who regularly referenced and introduced "angel families" during his campaign, previously invited several to the White House last year to highlight his administration's approach to illegal immigration.

When he signed the executive order earlier this week, Trump said it would "solve that problem" of children being separated from their parents, but that it wouldn't end his administration's "zero tolerance" policy of charging everyone who attempts to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

"I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated," Trump said in explaining his reversal.

Trump struck a much tougher note Friday, again calling U.S. immigration laws the "weakest in the history of the world" and promising the families in attendance that his administration will continue its border crackdown.

“Their loved ones have not died in vain,” Trump said. "Your loss will not have been in vain. We will secure our borders."

The president also took aim at frequent targets — sanctuary city policies and the gang MS-13 — and said undocumented immigrants pose a public safety threat.

"I always hear that 'oh no, the population is safer than the people that live in the country.' You've heard that fellas, right? You've heard that. I hear [it] so much and I say, 'is that possible?' The answer is, it's not true," he said.

There is no evidence that undocumented immigrants commit more crime. Several studies have found that immigrants in general — both legal and undocumented — commit less crime than native-born American citizens.

Earlier Friday, Trump blasted Democrats for "phony stories of sadness and grief" on the border, and called for members of his own party to delay efforts to fix the nation's immigration laws until after the midterms.