Trump calls for ‘tougher’ immigration response after NYC attack
President Trump on Wednesday seized on the deadly truck attack in New York City to renew his calls for a crackdown on immigration and tighter security measures.
Trump said the alleged driver in Tuesday’s attack entered the country through the diversity visa lottery and demanded that Congress act “immediately” to terminate the program, which applies to people from countries with low levels of immigration to the U.S.
“Diversity lottery. Sounds nice. It’s not nice. It’s not good. It hasn’t been good. We’ve been against it,” he said during a Cabinet meeting.
The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, is an Uzbek national who used the lottery system to enter the U.S. in 2010, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“We have to get much tougher. We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct,” the president said.
The comments followed Trump’s Tuesday night tweet that he had ordered DHS to “step up our already Extreme Vetting Program.” The policy demands federal agencies boost their efforts to identify would-be terrorists who try to immigrate to the U.S.
The White House did not expound on what additional measures the president requested.
His calls reflected some of the hallmark promises he made during the 2016 presidential campaign. Then-candidate Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the U.S. before throwing his support behind “extreme vetting” measures.
Trump has implemented two versions of a travel ban, both of which have been tied up in federal courts. Neither version included Uzbekistan on its list of banned countries.
Nonetheless, Trump denounced the U.S. justice system’s handling of terror suspects and immigration violations as a “joke” and a “laughingstock” and called for “far quicker” punishments for terror suspects like Saipov, whom Trump said he would “certainly consider” sending to the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
“They’ll go through court for years,” Trump said. “And at the end, they’ll be — who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now.”
The White House said later Wednesday it views Saipov as an “enemy combatant,” which could make him eligible to be prosecuted in the military justice system.
“I believe we would consider this person to be an enemy combatant, yes,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, adding his actions “certainly justify that” label.
GOP national security hawks, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.), pushed Trump to give Saipov that label.
But a transfer to Guantánamo appeared to be squashed Wednesday evening, when federal prosecutors in New York unveiled terrorism charges against Saipov. That means he will almost certainly face the charges in civilian court.
“The Trump administration missed an important opportunity to send a strong message to terrorists and make America safer,” Graham said in a statement. “This is a huge mistake. Very sad.”