The Slatest

Trump Threatens to Tighten Asylum Policy in Vague, Fearmongering Speech

Donald Trump speaking in the White House
US President Donald Trump speaks during an event for American workers in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC on October 31, 2018.
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

Donald Trump continued his pre-election immigration rabble rousing by announcing some possible changes to asylum and border policy and giving a laundry list of criticisms of the current immigration system. He did not bother to describe a specific law or legislation, saying only that there would be an executive order “sometime next week.”

“My administration is finalizing a plan to end the rampant abuse of our asylum system to halt dangerous influx and establish control over America’s sovereign borders,” Trump said in a subdued speech from the White House.

The main announcement was that border authorities would only accept asylum claims from people who do so at official U.S. border-crossing points. “Migrants will have to present themselves lawfully at a port of entry,” Trump said. “Those who choose to break our laws and enter illegally will no longer be able to use meritless claims.” He added that those who were caught crossing the border illegally would be detained indefinitely as their cases worked through the system. Current law allows anyone on U.S. soil, whether or not they enter with legal authorization, to claim asylum; he did not explain how that would change.

There had been reports this week that the administration was considering some kind of more extensive shutdown at the Southern border, similar to its travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries, but that was not announced today. He also said that military troops being deployed at the border would treat any throwing of rocks at them as if they were bullets and respond accordingly.

He spent a portion of the speech rehashing his standard criticism of illegal immigration and current immigration laws as well as stoking fear of the migrant caravans currently traveling through Mexico toward the United States, although they’re still hundreds of miles away. He cast doubt on many asylum claims, saying that migrants used “well-coached language” provided to them by lawyers.

Trump also said there would be new detention facilities built for families who come into the country and are apprehended by border authorities so children would not have to be separated as their parents are awaiting prosecuted.

He also denied that there was anything political about his speech and possible policy changes.

“There’s nothing political about a caravan of thousands of people pouring up into our country,” Trump said in response to questions from reporters. He then said that the people in the caravans were “very tough” and that “women do not want them, women want security.”