Donald Trump visited the US-Mexico border Wednesday where he said that “millions” of undocumented migrants were surging into the country due to the lax policies of his presidential successor, Joe Biden.
The Republican former leader's first fact-finding tour since leaving the White House comes as the Biden administration grapples with a migrant surge that Mr Trump blames on an easing of his “tough but fair” policies that were aimed at deterring new arrivals.
“Now we have an open, really dangerous border, more dangerous than it's ever been in the history of our country — and we better go back fast,” he said after receiving a briefing from sheriffs at the Department of Public Safety in the small town of Weslaco, Texas.
“Millions of people are coming in,” Mr Trump added later in remarks delivered along the border in Pharr, Texas, as part of his recent ramp-up of public appearances.
Migrant detentions reached their highest level in 15 years in March and Biden critics have accused the president of playing down the situation. But the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands, not millions, and many migrants are being returned to Mexico.
Mr Trump was accompanied by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has pledged to finish Mr Trump's wall along his state's border — but with private donations and not federal assistance.
The former president was also joined by several Republican members of Congress, including conservatives Lauren Boebert and Jim Banks, as they observed an uncompleted portion of the re-enforced metal wall looming over a grassy bluff.
The area is in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the illegal migration hot spots along the 3,100-kilometre border.
“We did a hell of a job,” Mr Trump said, expressing pride in his efforts to build about 650 kilometres of border barrier and tamping down on the number of migrants crossing into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Most of Mr Trump's new construction involved bolstering or replacing existing wall or fencing, with fewer than 80 kilometres of it being constructed where none stood previously.
Republican members of Congress have slammed Mr Biden for reversing Trump programmes, including his “remain in Mexico” policy, which had forced thousands of asylum seekers from Central America to stay south of the US border until their claims are processed.
“Things have changed so quickly and so dramatically under the Biden administration, it's been amazing and disastrous,” Mr Abbott said, declaring that Americans are being “threatened every single day” by migrants crossing the border.
Critics have also warned of the surge in drug trafficking into the US, particularly of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
Mr Biden last week sent Vice President Kamala Harris — whom he has given the task of overseeing efforts to stem migration — to the border region where she highlighted the administration's commitment to “orderly and humane” immigration policies.
The vice president also visited El Paso, but received withering criticism as the border city is hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre of the migration surge.
The Democratic Party has pushed back, saying Republicans were bringing their “clown show” to the border to mislead voters.
Mr Trump, who may seek re-election in 2024, is increasingly seeking the public spotlight after months of laying low, following the events of January 6, when his supporters rioted at the US Capitol.
Last week in Ohio, at his first campaign-style rally since leaving the White House, he repeated unsubstantiated claims that he had won November's election and that Mr Biden prevailed only through fraud.
Perhaps eager to rejuvenate conservative voters, who polls show still largely support Mr Trump, he returned to the theme in Texas.
“Biden is destroying our country and it all started with a fake election,” Mr Trump said. “If you don't have good elections and if you don't have a strong border, you don't have a country.”