Mike Huckabee on Saturday hailed the double-fenced border in the San Diego sector and the agents who patrol it, contending that it brought a 54 percent reduction in the area’s violent crime.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks to the media after a border tour with former Rep. Duncan Lee Hunter. Photo by Chris Stone

But in a comment echoing one made by rival GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, Huckabee said of illegal border-crossers:

“They’re not coming to make beds and pick tomatoes. They’re coming to sell drugs. They’re coming to commit crime and to bring the mayhem that they have in their hearts upon the American people.”

Standing beside former congressman Duncan Lee Hunter, who pushed for a beefed-up border two decades ago, Huckabee told reporters that he didn’t think a Trump-proposed wall is needed across the entire 1,933-mile southern border nor even the same type of “commonsense fencing” now in place.

“No wall is perfect,” he said in 90-degree weather at a parking lot near the fence. “What we have is probably as good as it can get.”

He instead called for a greater investment in technology, human resources and the “resolve” to improve a judicial system that lets people go soon after being apprehended.

In fact, the former Arkansas governor said that, if elected president, he would deploy his director of Homeland Security to Laredo, Texas, with his family “and say this is where you’re going to be stationed until the border is secure. So get with it.”

He said border security could be achieved in less than a year — or less time than it took to build the 1,700-mile Alaska highway through British Columbia.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks with the media at the U.S-Mexico border. Photo by Chris Stone

“When people talk about border security, what we are really talking about is safety for American families,” Huckabee said. “We’re talking about an ability to live free and live safely.”

He recalled a helicopter tour of Israel’s border and being told that its security fence reduced suicide bomber intrusions from 1,000 a year to zero.

He said Mexicans would benefit as well — preventing them from being exploited.

“We need to resolve that we will secure our border for the benefit of people on both sides, to make our country so it is not a place where people come with nefarious intentions,” he said.

Joking that he had more time to speak than in the last televised GOP debate, Huckabee thanked the 67-year-old Hunter — who didn’t talk to reporters — and Local 1613 of the National Border Patrol Council that hosted his 2-hour tour from Border Field State Park to the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

He called amnesty “an invitation to disaster” but wouldn’t discuss what he’d like to see in immigration reform legislation.

“You can’t discuss the details of what you’re going to do until the border is secure,” which he said required “a comprehensive approach to border security.”

“If we get that,” he said, “then the American people are open to a discussion of immigration reform.”

Workers install additional wiring on the double fence between the United States and Mexico. Photo by Chris Stone

Still, Huckabee called for an immigration system that is cheaper and faster than one he said costs thousands of dollars and 15 to 20 years of waiting.

He said it’s the “wrong question” to fight over how many immigrants can come. “The question is: Why are people coming?”

“If they are coming because they want to join with us and make this a great country, and they want to become part of America,” he said, “that’s a different equation than because they want to come and get involved in activities that are hurtful to America and the American people.”

Huckabee began his remarks by citing figures on the decline of San Diego sector apprehensions — from 480,000 a year before the double fencing to 30,000 a year afterward. (Experts have noted that illegal immigration merely moved east after 1994’s Operation Gatekeeper.)

He reserved his highest praise for the “raw courage” of Border Patrol agents.

“A fence with the best electronics in the world will never replace the human element,” he said. “A lot of Americans should get on their knees every night and thank God for the people who put their lives on the line to protect these United States of America. They risk their lives every day.”

Huckabee, 60, also dismissed official Vatican comments regarding the meeting of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and Pope Francis several weeks ago in Washington.

An ordained Southern Baptist minister, Huckabee stood by Davis’ account that she met privately for 15 minutes with the Roman Catholic leader. He said Vatican people picked her up and took her back to the hotel where she was staying.

Gov. Mike Huckabee with former Rep. Duncan Hunter (left) speaks with representatives of border patrol union Terence Shigg (second from right) and Chris Harris (right). Photo by Chris Stone

“Whatever the underlings within the church may have said, I don’t think it supersedes what the pope said,” Huckabee told Times of San Diego.

Father Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, issued a statement Oct. 2 that included: “Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”

But Huckabee instead cited Terry Moran of ABC News, who quoted the pope as saying: “I can’t have in mind all the cases that can exist about conscientious objection, but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right.”

Francis said of government officials: “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”

Huckabee, whose standing in national GOP polls is about 3 percent, saluted the labor union that hosted his tour.

“Perhaps for some Republicans, recognizing the value of those in a labor union may seem … anathema,” he said. “But I’m here today to tell you that because of these professional men and women that we have the level of border safety that we have, and we should be grateful.”