Trump: Fi­nal­iz­ing plan to end ‘abuse’ of U.S. sys­tem

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By David Naka­mura and Nick Miroff

WASH­ING­TON » Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Thurs­day he in­tends to take ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion next week to end the “abuse” of the U.S. asy­lum sys­tem, a plan that could in­clude “mas­sive tent cities” at the south­ern border aimed at hold­ing mi­grants in­def­i­nitely and­mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for them to re­main in the coun­try.

But Trump of­fered few other de­tails dur­ing re­marks at the White House where he re­it­er­ated un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims he has made in re­cent weeks that a car­a­van of mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica, trav­el­ing north through Mex­ico by foot, rep­re­sents an ur­gent na­tional se­cu­rity threat. He painted the group, which in­cludes many fam­i­lies with chil­dren, as dan­ger­ous and akin to an “in­va­sion.”

The pres­i­dent’s re­marks, car­ried live on ca­ble news, came just days be­fore Tues­day’ s mid term elec­tions, the lat­est bid by Trump to make im­mi­gra­tion the top cam­paign is­sue.

Trump said the emer­gency steps he plans to take would pro­tect the United States against what he char­ac­ter­ized as ram­pant fraud that threat­ens to over­whelm the na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

The pres­i­dent of­fered no le­gal ra­tio­nale for his plan, and he brushed off ques­tions about the le­gal­ity of some of the meth­ods he sug­gested could be em­ployed, such as de­tain­ing fam­i­lies in­def­i­nitely or re­fus­ing mi­grants an im­mi­gra­tion court hear­ing.

Such moves would likely trig­ger le­gal chal­lenges from civil rights groups.

Trump also sug­gested the U.S. mil­i­tary at the border could fire on mem­bers of the car­a­van if the mi­grants throw rocks at sol­diers.

At­tor­neys at the White House, De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity and the De­part­ment of Jus­tice have strug­gled in re­cent weeks tomake the pres­i­dent’s sweep­ing de­mands to sus­pend hu­man­i­tar­ian pro­tec­tions com­port with U.S. laws that pro­tect the right to seek refuge on U.S. soil, re­gard­less of how that asy­lum-seeker ar­rives.

“Th­ese il­le­gal car­a­vans will not be al­lowed into the United States,” Trump said. “They should turn back now. They’re wast­ing their time.”

In a sign that the ad­min­is­tra­tion is mov­ing to carry out Trump’s or­ders, DHS has asked the Pen­tagon to pro­vide up to 8,000 fam­ily de­ten­tion beds at two sites, an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial con­firmed to The Wash­ing­ton Post on Thurs­day.

The pres­i­dent and his Repub­li­can al­lies have ex­pressed con­fi­dence that Trump’s hard line im­mi­gra­tion mes­sage will mo­ti­vate his con­ser­va­tive base as Repub­li­cans try to main­tain con­trol of Congress. Democrats have ac­cused the pres­i­dent of fan­ning pub­lic fears over a group of mi­grant fam- ilies that has dwin­dled and re­mains 800 miles from the United States.

“The pres­i­dent’s speech was a po­lit­i­cal stunt aimed at whip­ping up fear and xeno­pho­bia just days be­fore the elec­tion,” Rep. Ben­nie Thomp­son, D-Miss., rank­ing mem­ber on the House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment.

Trump’s vow of a new ex­ec­u­tive or­der came af­ter he au­tho­rized the de­ploy­ment of more than 7,000 troops to as­sist in se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions at the U.S.-Mex­ico border, the largest peace­time de­ploy­ment of ac­tive-duty troops to the border in nearly a cen­tury.

In his re­marks, Trump praised the troops, which the Pen­tagon said would act in sup­port roles to as­sist U.S. Border Pa­trol agents, which has the le­gal au­thor­ity to make ar­rests.

Trump claimed that Mex­i­can sol­diers were “hurt badly” dur­ing clashes with a sec­ond group of mi­grants at the Gu­atemala border last Sun­day. “Th­ese are tough peo­ple. In many cases, you have young men, strong men,” Trump said.

But the Mex­i­can forces were fed­eral po­lice, not troops, and there were no re­ports of se­ri­ous in­juries. Asked if the U.S. mil­i­tary would use lethal force, Trump sug­gested that the troops would be com­pelled to re­spond to vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions.

“They want to throw rocks at our mil­i­tary, our mil­i­tary fights back,” Trump said. “We’re go­ing to con­sider — and I told them con­sider it a ri­fle.”

EVAN VUCCI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of­fered few de­tails on how he plans to build “mas­sive tent cities” for mi­grants seek­ing asy­lum.

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