In a meeting with a border patrol union leader on Friday, Donald Trump claimed that the federal government is allowing undocumented immigrants to enter the country in order to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
“I’m sure you’re not going to write it,” Trump told reporters covering the meeting, according to a transcript posted by NBC’s Ali Vitali. “To me that’s— they’re letting people pour into the country so they can go vote.”
Trump was responding to a statement from Art Del Cueto, the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing border patrol agents that has endorsed Trump, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Cueto said that “they’re checking the records, 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,” according to Vitali.
Trump asked why that was the case, and Del Cueto answered, “So they can go ahead and vote in this election.”
After Trump repeated the allegation to reporters, Del Cueto continued, “Want to hurry up and fast track them so they go ahead and be able to vote for—.” The transcript cuts off there.
“And these are professionals,” Trump responds. “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.”
Asked about Trump’s comments Friday, White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said, “I haven’t seen those comments and I have no idea what he would use to back those up,” according to a pool report.
Shawn Moran, a spokesperson for the National Border Patrol Council, did not immediately respond Friday morning to a request for comment from TPM. Moran did tell the Chicago Tribune that the roundtable discussion had conflated two separate issues: Illegal border crossings into the United States, and the naturalization process for potential citizens.
While there has been an increase in illegal border crossings, Moran said, no border agents had been directed to allow anyone into the country illegally to vote. Border Patrol agents are not involved in the naturalization process—that is under the purview of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.
Trump previously made similar allegations at the end of the first presidential debate. Asked if he would respect the legitimacy of election results, Trump instead dove into a tangent about hundreds of people who had been mistakenly made citizens after DHS and FBI failed to digitize old fingerprint records.
“The other day, we were deporting 800 people, and perhaps they passed the wrong button — they pressed the wrong button — or perhaps, worse than that, it was corruption,” Trump said. “But these people we were going to deport for good reason ended up becoming citizens. Ended up becoming citizens. And it was 800, and now it turns out it might be 1800, and they don’t even know.”
Read the full transcript of the exchange below:
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) October 7, 2016
Correction: The initial version of this post misinterpreted Trump’s claim about who the federal government was allowing to “pour into the country so they can go and vote.” Trump appeared to be referring to undocumented immigrants who were on a waiting list to become citizens, not to undocumented immigrants with criminal records. We regret the error.