Trump wants tougher immigration law after NYC attack

Zeke Miller
Associated Press

Washington — Roused by the first major ISIS-inspired attack on U.S. soil since he took office, President Donald Trump urged swift repeal of an immigration program that brought the suspect to America and laid into a political foe he said was responsible for it — though Republican George H. W. Bush signed the law.

Trump insisted Wednesday that Congress must end the visa lottery program under which Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov entered the country, and he ordered still tighter scrutiny of immigrants already subject to what he calls “extreme vetting.” But the White House offered no indication of what new steps the president might be planning.

“We have to get much tougher, much smarter, and less politically correct,” Trump said. He also said the U.S. justice system for dealing with such cases must be strengthened, declaring, “What we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughingstock.” Again, there was no elaboration from the White House.

Trump denounced the 29-year-old suspect in the truck attack, which killed eight and injured many more, as an “animal,” and said he was open to sending the man to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, instead of to trial in New York. “I would certainly consider that. Send him to Gitmo,” Trump said.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House considered Saipov an “enemy combatant” and had yet to decide whether to seek to move him out of the civilian judicial system to military detention.

A little later, however, prosecutors in New York filed charges in federal court accusing Saipov with providing material support to a terrorist group and committing violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

On the political front, Trump took to Twitter early Wednesday to blame Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who represents New York, for the bipartisan visa program used by the suspect to enter the country in 2010.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Saipov entered the U.S under the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which gives people from countries with low rates of immigration an opportunity to come to the U.S. Trump branded the program “a Chuck Schumer beauty,” and called on Congress to immediately begin work to end it.

It was not immediately clear when Saipov was radicalized by the Islamic State group.

Schumer did back the lottery program as a member of the House when it was approved with the support of both parties in 1990. It was signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

Trump’s broadside against a senator from the state still reeling from the attack drew bipartisan criticism.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that Trump’s attack against Schumer “plays right into the hands of the terrorists,” by sowing division at a time when unity is needed. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said it was “probably not the best way to bring out the best in our country.” Corker, who has announced he will not run for re-election in 2018, has been increasingly critical of Trump’s temperament.

Schumer himself offered this advice: “The president ought to stop tweeting and start leading.”

Sanders later said Trump “has not blamed Senator Schumer and doesn’t feel that the senator is responsible for the attack.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, defended Trump’s criticism of the visa lottery program.

“The diversity lottery visa’s been criticized by many people as being pretty indiscriminate in terms of who’s accepted into the country. I think it needs to be looked at. And I agree with the president that it can certainly be improved by more of a merit-based system.”