In a speech at the White House that contained several falsehoods, the president said he seeking to limit asylum claims only to those who applied at legal entry points. He claimed the move was necessary because a succession of migrant caravans - their location still 1,000 miles from the border – was considered by some people to be “an invasion”.
“Asylum is not a programme for those living in poverty. There are billions of people in the world living at the poverty level. The United States cannot possibly absorb them all,” he said.
“Asylum is a very specific protection based on those fleeing persecution.”
The migrants making their way northwards have come largely from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, all of which suffer from grinding poverty and high levels of violence.
He said some had thrown stones at, and attacked Mexican police and troops – a reference to clashes between Mexican security forces and up to 1,500 migrants at the Guatemala-Mexico border, that left one migrant dead. Meanwhile, even as the number of migrants attached to the original caravan continues to dwindle, a third group of around 500 migrants from El Salvador entered Guatemala last weekend.
Mr Trump said he had told military commanders at the southern US border, that if migrants try to throw rocks at them, the troops should act as though the rocks were “rifles”.
“I hope there won’t be that. But I will tell you this, anybody throwing stones, rocks like they did to Mexico…- where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico – we will consider that a firearm,” the president said.
“Because there’s not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock.”
Mr Trump did not release details on the asylum proposal or how it would be implemented. CNN said that according to one White House aide, the administration will seek to require migrants to request asylum at legal points of entry, and prevent them from claiming asylum if they are caught crossing the border illegally.
The president said he would sign an immigration-related executive order next week, but was not specific as to what it would address.
“Migrants seeking asylum will have to present themselves lawfully at a port of entry,” Mr Trump told reporters.
“Those who choose to break our laws and enter illegally will no longer be able to use meritless claims to gain automatic admission into our country.”
Mr Trump’s harsh language was the latest broadside from the US president as he seeks to hammer and issue he knows that many of his supporters care deeply about. “These illegal caravans will not be allowed into the United States and they should turn back now,“ he said. “We are stopping people at the border. This is an invasion.”
Some in his own party have accused Mr Trump of playing politics with the issue of the caravan.
Republican Bob Corker, the returning senator from Tennessee, said Mr Trump’s words were wrong and described the caravan as a “political football”.
“Let’s face it,” Mr Corker told reporters in Nashville, according to The Tennessean. “We all know what’s happening. It’s all about revving up the base, using fear to stimulate people to come out at the polls.”
He added: “I’ve just never been angry at someone who wants to come to the greatest nation on earth and live the kind of life that we lead. To make pejorative statements about all of them….I don’t approve of that. I don’t.”
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