WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday seized on the deadly New York City truck attack to step up demands for stricter US immigration laws, asking Congress to end a visa program that let the Uzbek suspect into the country and saying he might send him to Guantanamo Bay.
In a day of harsh recriminations over Tuesday’s attack that killed eight people in America’s largest city, Trump appeared to assign some blame for an incident that authorities have labeled as terrorism to top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who accused Trump of politicizing a national tragedy.
Trump said he would consider sending the suspect, identified by authorities as Sayfullo Saipov, to the military prison at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama tried but failed to shut. No detainee has been sent to the Guantanamo prison since 2008.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later told reporters that Trump considers Saipov an “enemy combatant,” a designation that would curtail his legal rights. Trump called the suspect “this animal” and lambasted the US justice system for terrorism suspects as “a joke” and “a laughingstock.”
Since taking office in January, Trump has sought to increase deportations of illegal immigrations and limit legal immigration.
The Department of Homeland Security said Saipov entered the United States in 2010 through the so-called diversity visa program, designed to provide a path to US residency for citizens from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.
Authorities said Saipov drove a rented truck along a bike path in lower Manhattan, mowing down cyclists and pedestrians. Police shot and wounded Saipov before arresting him.
Trump reprised what has been his stance as a White House candidate and as president – that tougher immigration laws should be a first line of defense against such attacks.
“I’m going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“We have to get much tougher,” he said. “We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct. We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.”
“I WANT MERIT BASED”
Schumer helped create the diversity visa program in 1990 when he in the House of Representatives, but he was also part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who crafted an immigration bill in 2013 that would have done away with the program. That bill was passed by the Senate but killed by the Republican-led House.
The program, via a lottery, selects up to 50,000 people per year who receive US visas, and eventually permanent residence in the United States. Those selected undergo US security checks before being allowed to immigrate.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump wrote on Twitter.