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Former Trump adviser refers to migrants as ‘invaders’

A former adviser to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE was met with backlash from a CNN panel on Tuesday night after he called undocumented immigrants “invaders.”

Steve Cortes, a former adviser on Trump’s Hispanic advisory council, made the comment while appearing on a panel with CNN anchor Erin Burnett.

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The panel was discussing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that has led to the separation of migrant parents from their children.

“They’re not immigrants, they’re invaders,” Cortes said, clarifying that he was referring to migrant parents and not the children.

“If you do not have permission to be in our country and you cross our border, by definition, you are an invader,” Cortes added.

Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, an immigrant from Colombia, tore into Cortes for the comparison. 

“I am an immigrant, I come from a country who has also seen the kinds of atrocities that these families are fleeing — I know this first hand,” Cardona said.

She said families do not easily make the decision to make the journey to the United States.

“A family does not wake up in the morning that comes from these countries — and they are fleeing certain death, Erin — to say, ‘Oh, I think it would be fun to cross the border on a life-threatening journey with my children in tow to see if I can break into the United States,’ ” Cardona said.

“On every conceivable level and by every measurable metric, this is an abomination,” Cardona said, referring to the Trump administration's immigration policies. “It is dictatorial. It is inhumane. It is diabolical.”

Cortes on Wednesday walked back his use of the term "invaders" in a tweet.  

"Upon reflection, I take back the word 'invaders,' " Cortes wrote. "I fully support prosecuting & deporting adults who illegally trespass into America. But I resent the Trump-haters' extreme language, esp. comparisons to Nazis (e.g. Michael Hayden), & I don't want to reach for hyperbolic terms."

Trump said in a tweet Tuesday that Democrats are to blame for his administration’s policy, saying illegal immigrants “pour into and infest our country.” 

Another CNN panelist, former presidential adviser David Gergen, said that Trump's rhetoric makes it sound like migrants are animals.

“He is treating them like animals. ... That’s the kind of philosophy that has led other countries in the past into authoritarianism," Gergen said.