WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday seized on the lethal NEW YORK truck attack to intensify needs for stricter U.S. immigration laws and regulations, asking Congress to get rid of a visa program that allows Uzbek suspect inside the country and stating he should send him to Guantanamo Bay.
In a day of harsh recriminations over Tuesday’s attack that killed 8 people in America’s most popular city, Trump seemed to assign some blame for an event that authorities have labeled as terrorism to top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who accused Trump of politicizing a national tragedy.
Trump said he’d consider sending the suspect, identified by authorities as Sayfullo Saipov, to the military prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama tried but failed to shut. No detainee has been delivered to the Guantanamo prison since 2008.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later told reporters that Trump considers Saipov an “enemy combatant,” a designation that could curtail his rights.
Trump labeled the suspect “this animal” and lambasted the U.S. justice system for terrorism suspects as “a joke” and “a laughingstock.”
Since taking office in January, Trump has sought to increase deportations of illegitimate immigration and limit legal immigration.
The Department of Homeland Security said Saipov entered America in 2010 through the so-called diversity visa program, intended to provide a route to U.S. residency for citizens from countries with historically low rates of immigration to America.
Authorities said Saipov drove a rented truck along a bike path in lower Manhattan, mowing down pedestrians and cyclists. Police forces shot and wounded Saipov before arresting him.
Trump reprised what has been his position as a White House candidate and as president – that more challenging immigration laws and regulations need to be the first type of security against such violence.
“I‘m going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program,”
Trump told reporters at the White House.
“We have to get much tougher,” he said. “We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct. We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.”
“I WANT MERIT BASED”
Schumer helped create the diversity visa program in 1990 when he was in the House of Representatives, but he was also part of the bipartisan group of lawmakers who crafted an immigration bill in 2013 that would have done away with the program. That bill was passed by the Senate but wiped out by the Republican-led House.
The program, using a lottery, selects up to 50,000 people per year who receive U.S. visas, and eventually permanent residence in the United States. Those selected go through U.S. security checks before being permitted to immigrate.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit-based,”
Trump wrote on Twitter.
Sanders said later that Trump will not blame Schumer for the strike and would “love” to utilize the senator on tougher immigration laws and regulations.
Trump on Wednesday also renewed his call for a “merit-based” visa system – which would favor the highly skilled – as well as for ending “chain migration,” that allows legal immigrants to utilize for family members overseas to come to America. Trump said there were “23 people who arrived in or potentially arrived in” with Saipov.
Asked if legislation to get rid of the visa program would be taken up, No. 2 Senate Republican John Cornyn informed reporters that Congress must first pass legislation to safeguard illegitimate immigrants brought into the country as children, “and then the next thing we need to do is turn to our legal immigration system and see how we can change it.”
Trump accused congressional Democrats of blocking immigration legislation that could make the nation safer.
“We have a lot of good bills in there. We’re being stopped by Democrats because they’re obstructionists. And honestly, they don’t want to do what’s right for our country,”
Both the Senate and the House are managed by Trump’s fellow Republicans.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham criticized the Trump administration for not declaring Saipov, who remained hospitalized after being shot in the belly by an officer on Tuesday, as an “enemy combatant.”
“It’s ridiculous to believe that 1 day of interviews in a hospital tells us all we need to know about Saipov’s terrorist ties,”
Graham said in a statement.
The complaint filed against Saipov said he had waived his privileges and decided to talk with investigators lacking any attorney present.
As a presidential candidate, Trump requested a complete ban on Muslims getting into the united states as a counter-terrorism measure.
Courts have blocked his latest executive action blocking entrance into the USA for the citizens from several Muslim-majority countries. Sanders said the White House hasn’t ruled out putting in Uzbekistan to the list of countries named in the travel ban.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Schumer said that
“instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, (Trump) should be bringing us together and aiming for the genuine method, anti-terrorism funding, which he suggested to cut in his most recent budget.”