Continuing efforts to focus the nation’s attention on immigration ahead of next week’s midterm elections, President Donald Trump delivered a White House address on Thursday warning of the threats posed by the caravans of thousands of Central Americans headed toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump complained about costs of illegal immigration to American taxpayers as well as the dangers of drugs being smuggled across the border.
“At this very moment, large, well-organized caravans of migrants are marching toward our southern border,” Trump said. “Some people call it an invasion. It’s like an invasion.”
Trump indicated he plans to sign an executive order sometime next week that would restrict asylum claims by illegal immigrants.
The president did not provide details of the proposal but suggested the order would limit asylum claims to legal ports of entry.
“Under this plan, illegal aliens will no longer get a free pass into the country by lodging meritless claims in seeking asylum,” Trump said. “We will not allow our generosity to be abused by those who would break our laws.”
Current law allows immigrants to claim asylum anywhere on American soil, likely leading to legal challenges to any order signed by Trump.
Trump also reiterated his claim that the caravans of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America contain many “rough people” that pose a threat to U.S. citizens.
Referring to a clash between migrants and Mexican police along the border of Mexico and Guatemala, Trump suggested members of the U.S. military deployed on the border could fire on migrants throwing rocks or stones at them.
“We will consider that a firearm,” Trump said. “We will consider that the maximum we can consider that, because they’re throwing rocks viciously and violently.”
“We’re not going to put up with that. They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” he added. “I told them to consider it a rifle.”
Official Defense Department rules of engagement state deadly force is only justified when there is a “reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to a person.”
Trump also said the military is helping to build massive tent cities to detain all migrants arrested at the border, declaring an end to the policy of “catch and release.”
“We have thousands of tents, we have a lot of tents, we have a lot of everything,” Trump said. “We’re going to hold them right there, we’re not letting them into our country.”
The president’s address is seen as the latest effort to encourage members of his base to vote in next week’s midterm elections, with critics calling the speech a “political stunt.”
(Photo: Gage Skidmore)
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