US president Donald Trump singled out a Hispanic US Border Patrol agent and appeared to misname the agency in his remarks during a White House ceremony Monday to honour border security agents.
Trump was speaking to a crowd of officers from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and US Customs and Border Protection, which he mistakenly referred to as "CBC" instead of "CBP" throughout his half hour of remarks.
After praising some of the agencies' top officials, Trump called an agent up to the podium to share a story about finding "a horrible 78 illegal aliens" inside of a trailer just across the US-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas.
"Adrian, come here, I want to ask you a question ... you're not nervous, right? Speaks perfect English," Trump said, only referring to the agent by his first name.
The officer took the stage to recount his experience, which Trump praised as "a good job."
Trump also touted his plans for a border wall, a project he has spoken about as central to his hard-line immigration policy since his campaign, and said it wasn't "easy because we have a little opposition called the Democrats." Experts have warned that the wall will be astronomically expensive and not an effective measure of immigration control.
White House reporters present at the ceremony tweeted about Trump's gaffe of the agency's name, including Fox News' John Roberts and Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs, who noted the president's teleprompter had the correct abbreviation.
Though the White House did not identify a specific impetus for the event, debate over the necessity of ICE has grown sharper in the wake of reports of officers' mishandling and abuse of immigrants in US custody.
A progressive movement to abolish ICE has caught fire ahead of November's midterm elections and 2020's presidential elections is growing among activists and candidates, who Trump called "extremists."
"We will protect those who protect us," Trump said, disavowing opponents of the agency. "The extremists who attack ICE and CBC [sic] like to portray themselves as champions of social justice. They are not."
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