Trump to deliver remarks on immigration as midterms near

President TrumpDonald John TrumpAvenatti ‘still considering’ presidential run despite domestic violence arrest Mulvaney positioning himself to be Commerce Secretary: report Kasich: Wouldn’t want presidential run to ‘diminish my voice’ MORE is set to deliver remarks Thursday on what the White House is calling the "illegal immigration crisis" as the president doubles down on his efforts to make it the issue of the 2018 midterms.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump will make "brief remarks" from the Roosevelt Room of the White House at 4:15 p.m. and will also deliver "an update on border security."

ADVERTISEMENT

She did not provide any details of what Trump will say, but the president has been focused on a caravan of migrants traversing through Mexico that he has repeatedly cast as a major security threat.

Democrats have accused Trump of seeking to rile up his base and stoke fears over immigration with his recent rhetoric, a charge Trump refuted on Wednesday when he insisted he was not "fear-mongering" over the issue.

"I'm not fear-mongering at all. This is a very important subject," Trump said at a rally if Florida on Wednesday. Earlier that day, he'd said as many as 15,000 U.S. troops could be sent to the U.S. border.

The caravan of migrants is less than a third of that number and has shrunk in recent days, and is still roughly 1,000 miles from the border. It is mostly traveling by foot.

The warnings about the caravan are just one example of the rhetoric Trump has employed in recent days on immigration. 

On Tuesday, he proposed ending birthright citizenship through an executive order, drawing pushback from members of both parties. The proposal was widely dismissed by GOP lawmakers and legal experts because the practice of automatically granting citizenship to people born in the country is enshrined in the 14th Amendment.

Trump doubled down a day later and personally criticized Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrat Katie Porter unseats GOP's Mimi Walters Amazon fleeced New York, Virginia with HQ2 picks The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — House, Senate leaders named as Pelosi lobbies for support to be Speaker MORE (R-Wis.), who had offered mild criticism of the proposal, saying the Speaker didn't know anything about the issue. 

The broadside against Ryan was widely seen as a sign that Trump is not confident his party will retain the House majority next week, and that the president is already looking for people to blame.

Trump's aggressive rhetoric on immigration does not appear to have helped his party's efforts to keep the House majority, though there are some signs it is helping the Republican effort to hold on to its slim Senate majority.

Democrats are defending a number of Senate seats in Trump country, including states such as Missouri, West Virginia, Montana and North Dakota. Trump is also focusing his travel in the final days of the campaign on states with Senate races. 

Administration officials have also floated the idea of limiting the number of migrants who can enter the country to seek asylum, which is allowed at ports of entry under U.S. law. Trump and his allies have criticized the practice as a "loophole" for people seeking to enter illegally.

All of these efforts have triggered a backlash from Democrats, immigrant-rights groups and even some Republicans.

"It's definitely part of a divide and conquer strategy that a lot of politicians, including the president, have used successfully in the past," Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloFlorida New Members 2019 3 ways House Dems can fight climate change when sweeping policy is off the table Defeated Republicans mocked by Trump fire back at president MORE (R-Fla.) told CNN. "I hope this doesn't work. I hope that type of strategy starts failing in our country, but that's up to the American people."

Trump faced widespread criticism on Thursday morning for publishing an incendiary web video featuring Luis Bracamontes, a previously deported Mexican immigrant who was given the death penalty for killing two California police officers while he was illegally living in the U.S.

The video shows court footage of Bracamontes speaking unapologetically about his crimes, saying "I killed f------ cops" and "I'm going to kill more cops soon."

"Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay," a message in the video reads.

The video then flashes to footage of the caravan marching through the streets and across rivers, concluding with the message "who else would Democrats let in?"

Several political operatives and news organizations, including CNN, labeled the video "racist."

White House officials reportedly considered staging the speech earlier this week, but Trump instead traveled to Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the aftermath of last weekend's synagogue massacre.

It remains unclear if Trump will make any new proposals during his address, which will come just before he plans to travel to a campaign rally in Missouri.

The president this week has discussed ways to curb the number of people entering the country to seek asylum, a plan that could raise legal questions. He told Fox News's Laura Ingraham he wants to "build tent cities" to house asylum seekers rather than sheltering them in "structures."

"They’re going to be very nice and they're going to wait and if they don’t get asylum, they get out. And very few people — they don’t actually — if you want to wait, they don’t usually get asylum," he said.

--Updated at 12:45 p.m.