Trump targets legal, illegal immigration in latest push
WASHINGTON (AP) — Top administration officials have been discussing ways to increase pressure on countries with high numbers of citizens who overstay short-term visas, as part of President Donald Trump’s growing focus on immigration heading into his re-election campaign.
The administration could introduce new travel restrictions on nationals from those countries, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose private conversations.
The idea, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is just one of many under discussion by an administration that is increasingly desperate to satisfy a president who has been angry about the influx of migrants at the border as he tries to make good on his 2016 campaign promises and energize his base going into 2020.
The ideas have ranged from the extreme — including Trump’s threat to shut down the southern border and consideration of again separating children from parents — to more subtle tweaks to the legal immigration system, including efforts to clamp down on visa overstays, which, according to the nonpartisan Center for Migration Studies, exceed illegal border crossings. Plans are also in the works to have border patrol agents conduct initial interviews to determine whether migrants seeking asylum have a “credible fear” of returning to their homelands. Border patrol agents are the first officials who come into contact with migrants, and the thinking is that they’ll be less sympathetic than asylum officers. And officials have been considering raising asylum standards and changing the court system so that the last people in are the first to have their cases adjudicated. Some of the ideas have been proposed, rejected and then proposed again.
The administration has also been weighing targeting the remittance payments sent home by people living in the country illegally. And White House aide Stephen Miller in particular has been pushing Homeland Security officials to move forward with plans to punish immigrants in the country legally for using public benefits, such as food stamps.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said both are topics of focus for the White House.
“It is a top priority for the administration, as has been for two years, to reduce overstay rates for visas and the visa waiver program — and it’s well known that the administration is working to ensure faithful implementation of immigration welfare rules to protect American taxpayers,” he said.
At the same time, Trump suggested Monday that his threat to send migrants to so-called sanctuary cities in an apparent effort to exact revenge on Democratic foes is taking effect, even though it remains unclear whether such a plan is feasible.
“Those Illegal Immigrants who can no longer be legally held (Congress must fix the laws and loopholes) will be, subject to Homeland Security, given to Sanctuary Cities and States!” Trump tweeted just days after aides insisted the plan had been shelved.
Neither the White House nor the Department of Homeland Security responded to requests for comment on what, if anything, had changed Monday. And it’s unclear whether Homeland Security has taken any steps to implement the contentious plan.