(NewsNation) — Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. visited the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona on Tuesday for a firsthand look at the site where thousands of migrants have been crossing every week.
During an exclusive interview with NewsNation’s Ali Bradley, Kennedy called the southern border a “dystopian nightmare” after witnessing what he called “desperate people” from all over the world flooding against the border wall.
Kennedy claimed that the situation at the border clearly could have been prevented.
“We saw all of these people, hundreds and hundreds of people coming across the wall,” Kennedy said. “It seems hopeless.”
The presidential candidate praised the people of Yuma and their leadership in handling the border’s humanitarian crisis, everyone from the people who run the hospitals to the sheriff and those running the food banks.
“We talked to a hospital administrator who spent $23 million last year that is unreimbursed, caring for migrants,” Kennedy said.
He said all those people in Yuma were working to accommodate the problem, “a problem that has been created by the federal government.”
“It’s kind of the best part of America and the worst part at the same time,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the problems at the border could have been prevented, as infrastructure meant to keep people from crossing the border was destroyed.
“At that point, it became a business proposition for the cartels,” Kennedy said. “It’s become a multibillion dollar business every month, smuggling people across.”
Kennedy also cited a lack of attention to America’s relationships with Mexico and other countries in Central America, where the flow of migrants might have been stemmed before it reached the border. If elected, he said he would work on restoring a working relationship with those countries to help reduce migration.
He expressed support for a physical wall at least along some stretches of the border, while also supporting advances in surveillance techniques for more rural parts of the border. Kennedy also called for regulatory changes in how migrants are handled when it comes to determining who has a legitimate asylum claim.
Kennedy also cited a need to detain migrants, something the Biden administration has resisted doing. If the perception of an open border leads to more migrants coming to the border, Kennedy said, it puts more people in the hands of cartels.
“What we’re doing now is much more inhumane,” he said. “It has become an invitation to other people to take this huge risk to get into this country because it’s a signal that it’s an open door.”
Kennedy has already made inroads with some Democratic voters. Recent polling shows 20% of Democrats support him for the nomination compared to 60% for President Joe Biden, despite being a bit controversial among other Democrats.
Kennedy, an anti-vaccine proponent, launched a primary bid against Biden this spring. He has been characterized by some as a problematic fringe candidate who freely spreads conspiracy theories. In addition to his promotion of anti-vaccine theories, he has called for an investigation into the pharmaceutical industry and gun violence.
His views on gun control are also contrary to those of many in the Democratic Party, as he has stated that the U.S. would never be able to have the kind of strict gun laws seen in Europe. Instead, he has suggested looking into other ways to protect people, especially kids, from gun violence.
“If I have to, I will armor our schools the way we do airports,” Kennedy said.
When it comes to the war in Ukraine, Kennedy said the U.S. has come to Ukraine’s aid for all the right reasons, but he said there are also other agendas at work. Kennedy has expressed the opinion that Ukraine is a victim of a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia.
“We have to stop thinking in terms of the comic book depictions they propagandize us with, which is this is good against evil,” he said.
But Kennedy’s relatively decent poll numbers, as well as his media-ready image as an heir to the famous political dynasty, have caused some Democrats to worry that he could gain steam and potentially distract from the task of reelecting Biden in 2024.
Kennedy’s visit to the border kicked off a ricochet of 2024 presidential candidate visits to the southern border. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to visit Sierra Vista, Arizona, to tour the border firsthand and host a roundtable Wednesday.
The Hill contributed to this report.