In an interview with the West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Corey Lewandowski said the president’s bid to seal American borders shouldn’t be controversial because no other country, including Canada, would let people walk across the border.
“I don’t understand the issue of immigration as a controversy because no other country would allow it. Canada would never allow 100,000, 10,000 or 5,000 people to simply come into their country illegally without knowing who those people were,” he said.
“If Justin Trudeau knew that there was a caravan coming from Montana into Canada, what would he do? He would alert the Canadian Mounties, he would make sure that they were stopped at the border, particularly if you had no indication of who those people were, what their criminal histories were or why they were coming.”
WATCH: A look at how U.S. forces are fortifying the southern border as the migrant caravan approaches
Lewandowski defended the president when asked about criticisms that Trump’s nationalist rhetoric and attacks against the media have contributed to recent acts of political violence such as a letter bomb campaign that saw explosives mailed to prominent Trump critics, including journalists at CNN.
“The media has a significant role in the tenure and tone of what takes place,” he said.
“That is what is by and large leading to the problems that we have in our country which is the individuals on those shows, on those channels, using rhetoric which goes unchecked and unfortunately there is no pushback on it because it’s OK to do it when you’re on the left but when you’re a conservative, it’s a bad thing.”
With two days to go before American voters head to the polls for the mid-term elections, rhetoric and tensions south of the border have been escalating and aimed at whipping up fear about what Trump has described as a “migrant caravan” heading through Mexico towards the American border.
On Thursday, Trump called the advance “an invasion” and said any behaviour by the migrants such as throwing rocks at American soldiers would be treated as if they had opened fire with a gun.
Four caravans are currently en route to the U.S. border.
WATCH BELOW: ‘This is an invasion, totally legal to stop it’: Trump on caravan
The main group is made up of roughly 4,000 migrants and is still in southern Mexico. A second group of about 1,000 migrants is several hundred miles behind that one, with two smaller groups of 500 and 700 crossing through and approaching Guatemala right now.
Trump has said he will deploy around 15,000 troops to the border, set up a tent city to hold them, and eliminate the “catch and release” policy of allowing migrants to be released into the U.S. while they await a ruling on their application to stay in the country.
Immigration has long been among the most contentious issues in American politics but the rise of nationalism and populism in recent years has seen some politicians using rhetoric targeting immigrants in order to get supporters to turn out at the polls.
WATCH: U.S. troops construct fortified command post on US/Mexico border
Canada has not been immune to the effects of that: in the past year and a half, more than 30,000 migrants have crossed the border irregularly into Canada from the United States, including significant numbers of Nigerians and Haitians, facing revocation of their legal status to remain in the U.S.
In response, the Canada Border Services Agency has diverted staff from other locations in Canada to Quebec to deal with the flow.
Tents have also been set up as temporary accommodation, with the military brought in to help set them up.
WATCH BELOW: Amateur video shows group of migrants departing El Salvador for the U.S.
Most asylum claims from the irregular migrants are logged within 24 hours and become part of the queue vying to have their application accepted.
However, the issue of immigration has become increasingly politicized, with a poll by the Angus Reid Institute earlier this year finding 67 per cent of Canadians view the asylum-seeker surge as a “crisis” and that 65 per cent say there are “too many” for officials to handle.
More than half of those who identified as Liberal and NDP voters in the poll said the same.
Last week, federal statistics showed the government is now prioritizing the deportation of those irregular border crossers, with reports pointing to the goal of increasing removals by 25 to 35 per cent, or about 10,000 people per year.
That comes as the government tries to tackle the politically sensitive issue ahead of the October 2019 election.
Watch an extended interview with Corey Lewandowski below