Weeks before the midterm congressional elections, Mr. Trump is trying to elevate the issue of illegal immigration, an animating topic for the base of conservative white voters who powered his campaign, and one that many Republicans are leaning on in an attempt to hold on to their seats.
The White House declined to comment directly on the quarrel between Mr. Kelly and Mr. Bolton, but after hours of questions about it, issued a statement Thursday evening suggesting there was no bad blood in the West Wing.
“While we are passionate about solving the issue of illegal immigration, we are not angry at one another,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that played down the infighting in the West Wing and instead said Mr. Trump’s team was “furious” at Democrats over the issue.
Mr. Trump said last month that the United States would be reviewing its foreign aid with an eye toward providing it only “to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends,” and Mr. Bolton has advocated revoking it from countries who take steps at odds with United States objectives. Mr. Kelly, a retired Marine general and former commander of United States Southern Command, which oversees military operations in Central and South America, has made the case that American aid is vital to helping the region cope with its drug and economic problems, thus preventing an even larger flood of migration to the United States.
The president’s renewed complaints about immigration appear to be driven in part by new data. Numbers compiled by the Department of Homeland Security show that Mr. Trump’s policies, including his administration’s decision to separate children from their parents at the border, have failed to deter people from trying to gain entry to the United States.
The data, which has yet to be released publicly by the administration but was obtained by The New York Times, shows that 16,658 people traveling in families were apprehended at the border last month, the highest single-month total, and a total of 107,212 have been apprehended over the last year, the highest ever for families. That is substantially higher than the previous year-end total of 77,857 in the 2016 fiscal year.
Still, Ms. Sanders insisted the White House was pleased with its own immigration efforts. “Despite us having the worst laws in the world and no help from Democrats, our administration is doing a great job on the border,” she said.