President Donald Trump on Tuesday called on Congress to take action on immigration, placing the onus on Democrats to come to the table after he’d threatened to close the southern border over the increasing number of asylum seekers crossing into the US.
“Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal. I could do it in 45 minutes. We need to get rid of chain migration,” Trump said during an Oval Office press availability with Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“We need to get rid of catch and release and visa lottery. And we have to do something about asylum. And to be honest with you, we have to get rid of judges,” the President continued, later explaining that he no longer wants to catch people trying to illegally cross the Southern border and “bring them to a court.”
The list of topics Trump claimed could be addressed in 45 minutes has long vexed Congress, and almost certainly run afoul of the priorities of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose Democratic votes Trump would need to pass any immigration legislation.
“It is the worst, dumbest immigration system in the world,” Trump said of the US immigration system. “The Democrats can change it in one meeting. Everyone would agree. But they don’t want to change it because they don’t want to give Republicans a victory. “
The President said he’d spoken to Democrats about a potential immigration deal, and “all the sudden they’re changing” their minds.
Last week, the President threatened to close the southern border if Mexico did not begin apprehending more migrants attempting to come to the US. Trump acknowledged that Mexico had increased its apprehensions on Tuesday.
“They’ve made a big step over the last two days. They are apprehending people,” Trump said. “The fact that they’re doing that means fewer people are going to come.”
He also said he has “made (the) intention known” that if Mexico does not continue to apprehend more migrants attempting to cross into the US and if Congress does not reach a consensus on immigration, he’s “ready to close” the southern border of the US.
The President added that he’s “totally prepared” to close the southern border, “or we’re going to close large sections of it” despite economic consequences.
White House officials, meanwhile, are beginning to signal that Mexico is already doing more to stop border crossings – a development that could give the President a way to save face on the border closing threat without appearing to back down.
Trump also alluded to this in a tweet Tuesday morning, saying: “Mexico is apprehending large numbers of people at their Southern Border.”
In his tweets last week, Trump said: “Mexico must use its very strong immigration laws to stop the many thousands of people trying to get into the USA,” or else the “next step is to close the border!”
Now, a senior White House official said this morning that there is evidence that Mexico is stepping up to increase apprehensions and deal with the flow of asylum seekers attempting to get to the US-Mexico border. But the White House is seeking a more long-term commitment from the Mexican government before determining if those efforts are enough. They are seeking private commitments as well as evidence that Mexico’s efforts on the ground are sustained for more than a day or two.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also told reporters this morning that the administration has seen Mexico do more on the border.
“They have started to do a significant amount more,” Sanders said. “We’ve seen them take a larger number of individuals in hold in Mexico that have asylum claims while they wait to be processed in the United States.”
“We’ve also seen them stop more people from coming across the border so that they aren’t even entering into the United States. So those two things are certainly helpful and we’d like them to continue to up those efforts,” she added.
Because of this wait-and-see posture, the White House does not expect the President to make a final decision on closing the border with Mexico before he travels to the border region on Friday. But this official also cautions that the President could change his mind.
CNN’s Nikki Carajval and Allie Malloy contributed to this report.