WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump is claiming that his policies to stop illegal immigration are helping his standing with Latino voters, and he is taking undue credit for uniting families who were separated at the border.
Trump made the statements in a sometimes combative interview airing Thursday on the Spanish-language network Telemundo.
Trump said Hispanics want toughness at the border and his poll numbers with the increasingly important voting bloc have "gone way up" because he's delivered.
"They don't want people coming and taking their jobs," Trump said. "They don't want criminals to come because they understand the border."
The most recent AP-NORC poll conducted in mid-June showed Trump with 26 percent support among Hispanics. The White House did not provide supporting polls for Trump's claim.
The president also said his administration inherited a practice of separating families from the Obama administration. "They separated. I put 'em together," Trump said.
"You did not," replied Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart. Diaz-Balart then said 2,800 children were united with their families after the administration instituted a zero-tolerance policy, prompting Trump to interrupt and state, "because I put 'em together."
Trump began separating families on a large scale in 2017 and made it general practice under a "zero tolerance" policy that was announced in May 2018 to criminally prosecute every adult who crossed the border illegally. More than 2,700 children had been separated from families when a federal judge halted the practice the following month. Nearly all have been reunited, but a government watchdog said in January that thousands more families were believed to have split earlier in the administration, which is currently trying to find them under court order. It has no precise count due to inadequate tracking systems at the time.
Obama separated families under limited circumstances, but Trump took it to an entirely new level by making it standard practice, sparking a massive international backlash. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego forced Trump to revert to Obama's policy to separate families only in limited circumstances, like doubt about parentage, a parent's criminal record and concerns for a child's safety.
Trump also indicated Thursday he was "looking at" the $15 minimum wage that some Democratic presidential candidates are calling for on the campaign trail. But Trump said, "much more importantly," wages have gone up "tremendously" since he became president.
With the unemployment rate at 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969, employers are struggling to fill jobs and offering higher wages. That has pushed up pay for the lowest-paid one-quarter of workers more quickly than for everyone else since 2015. In April, the poorest 25% saw their paychecks increase 4.4% from a year earlier. Hourly pay for retail workers has risen 4.1% in the past year and 3.8% for hotel and restaurant employees. Manufacturing workers have seen pay rise 2.2% and construction workers, 3.2%.
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.