The president, who has spent much of his holiday weekend golfing with supporters and watching television, was apparently reacting to a “Fox and Friends” segment on immigration that had aired minutes before.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump, blaming Democrats and the Mexican government for an increasingly “dangerous” flow of unauthorized immigrants, unleashed a series of fiery tweets Sunday in which he vowed “NO MORE DACA DEAL” and threatened to walk away from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Minutes after wishing the nation a happy Easter on Sunday, Trump complained that “liberal” laws were preventing Border Patrol agents from doing their jobs, and he said that Republicans should use the “nuclear option” to sidestep Democratic opposition in the Senate and enact “tough laws NOW.”
The president, who has spent much of his holiday weekend golfing with supporters and watching television, apparently was reacting to a “Fox and Friends” segment on immigration that had aired minutes before. In his tweets, Trump referred to “caravans” of immigrants heading toward the southern border — a subject that was addressed on the Fox program.
A group of hundreds of Central Americans has been traveling through Mexico toward the United States, where the immigrants hope to seek asylum or sneak across the border. A reporter for BuzzFeed has been traveling with the group as it makes its way north.
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As he headed into church in Palm Beach on Sunday morning, Trump addressed his immigration tweets, saying: “Mexico has got to help us at the border. And a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, gave temporary protected status to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. The program requires immigrants to have resided in the United States since 2007, meaning any crossing the border now would not be eligible.
Trump announced this past year that he was ending the program, but courts have blocked his decision. He has been negotiating with Democrats on a legislative solution, but he seemed, in his tweet on Sunday, to withdraw his support for such talks.
Outside the church, the president said the Democrats “blew it” after having “had a great chance.”
“But we’ll have to take a look,” he added. He did not respond to a question from reporters about whether his tweets meant that he would not support any deal for DACA recipients.
In turning his Twitter ire on Mexico, Trump said the country was “doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S.” He said Mexican leaders “must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA.”
“NEED WALL!” he added.
It was far from the first time that Trump has threatened to scrap NAFTA as he pushes to change American trade policies that he says have hurt the United States economy and cost the country large numbers of jobs. The United States, Mexico and Canada are locked in difficult negotiations over a revamping of the trade pact.
The president’s tweets seemed at odds with some unifying steps taken this past week by members of his administration: The homeland-security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, met with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico to discuss ways to work together on security and trade issues, according to a description of the conversation released by the Department of Homeland Security.
But Trump may have been hearing a different voice over the weekend. He was accompanied to his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, by Stephen Miller, a senior-policy adviser who has shaped much of the Trump administration’s hard-line stance on immigration.
The president, in his tweets, criticized what he called “Catch & Release,” a practice in which detained unauthorized immigrants are sometimes released as they wait for a hearing before an immigration judge. In some cases, they are released because the government has nowhere to house them.
Critics say the practice — which, contrary to the president’s tweet, is not enshrined in law — gives the immigrants an opening to skip their hearing and settle undetected in the country.
Trump’s tweets Sunday echoed remarks on “Fox and Friends” by Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, whom the president has praised in the past.
“Our legislators actually have to stand up, and the Republicans control the House and the Senate, they do not need the Democrat support to pass any laws they want,” Judd said on the program. “They can go the nuclear option, just like what they did on the confirmation. They need to pass laws to end the catch-and-release program that’ll allow us to hold them for a long time.”
Judd also said that the “catch-and-release” policy was helping to lure the caravan of Central Americans to the United States.
A representative for a group called Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which organized the caravan, said that it would take four to six weeks before it reached the United States-Mexico border, and that the number of participants would be significantly smaller by then.
Most people are likely to drop out of the caravan in Mexico, rather than journey all the way to the border, the representative said, because they know they would be turned back by U.S. border officials.
“Many of them know they won’t qualify for asylum. They are afraid of being detained,” said Roberto Corona, the group’s communications director, adding that most of them just wanted to reach Mexico, where they plan to speak with members of that country’s Congress.
Migrants who cannot prove that they face persecution or that their lives are endangered in their home country are unlikely to be allowed to remain in the United States. The Trump administration has also sought to increase detentions to deter would-be migrants.