Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is rejecting suggestions that the move to send thousands of troops to the Southwest border, in response to the Central American caravan, is a political stunt. ‘We don’t do stunts,’ Mattis told a reporter on Wednesday. (Nov. 1)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump plans to call for new limits on asylum claims at a White House event Thursday, as he pushes the issue of immigration ahead of midterm elections next week that will decide control of Congress.
Trump will say that migrants attempting to enter the country must make asylum requests at legal points of entry, officials familiar with the plan told USA TODAY.
Trump and his aides have complained for weeks that people have been allowed to claim asylum even when they enter the country illegally. It’s not clear how Trump’s actions would work under existing law, which gives people entering the country broad authority to make asylum claims.
The president is also expected to address efforts to send more troops to the border and end birthright citizenship, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Officials said the topic of the 4:15 p.m. speech is “the immigration crisis.” Trump will deliver the address before departing for a campaign rally in Columbia, Missouri.
Trump has increasingly made immigration – and the caravan of several thousand Central Americans making its way to the U.S. border – a central theme of next week’s midterm elections, which will decide control of Congress. The Pentagon said Wednesday it would send some 7,000 active duty troops to the border, and the president has said that deployment could grow up to between 10,000 and 15,000 troops.
Military experts and Democratic members of Congress are calling the deployment to handle the caravan – which is mostly made up of migrants seeking to escape corruption, violence and poverty in their home countries – a “political stunt” designed more to rile up the Republican base ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
The last migrant caravan that reached the United States earlier this year showed that most participants took the legal route by applying for asylum. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 122 caravan members were caught illegally crossing the border, but 401 requested asylum. Of those who requested asylum, 93 percent passing their initial screening.
The president has also discussed this week revamping the process by which people born in the country are automatically granted citizenship, a move he has claimed could be done by executive order. Many legal scholars have said such a move would immediately face challenges for being unconstitutional.
Democrats blasted the president for what they called a political strategy designed to energize GOP voters through fear mongering. Both parties are working to fire up their base while appealing to independent voters.
“It’s a base-only strategy that threatens to backfire on Republicans in this election and beyond,” said Democratic strategist Lis Smith.
“If I were a Republican running in one of the many suburban swing House districts, I’d run hard and fast away from Trump on this issue,” she added.
Contributing; John Fritze and Alan Gomez
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