DULUTH (AP) -- President Trump defended his hard-line immigration policies during a rally in Minnesota just hours after backing off administration efforts to separate migrant families at the southern border.

Trump denounced his political opponents and those who make unauthorized border crossings, suggesting that the money used to care for those immigrants could be better spent on the nation's rural communities and inner cities.

During the raucous rally in Duluth, Minnesota, the president downplayed the crisis that has threatened to envelop the White House amid days of heart-wrenching images of children being pulled from their immigrant parents.

Trump made only a brief mention of his decision to sign an executive order after spending days insisting, wrongly, that his administration had no choice in separating families because of federal law and a court decision.