WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump hosted a roundtable discussion on Long Island on immigration and gang violence with federal and local officials that the White House called a “national call to action for legislative policy changes.
Trump said that every time someone tries to come into the U.S. illegally from one of the countries that receives aid, “We’re going to deduct a rather large” amount of money. He added, “We’re looking at our whole aid structure.”
Trump has previously accused countries like Mexico of failing to do enough to help the U.S. prevent illegal border crossings.
The president also defended his description last week of MS-13 gang members as “animals” to describe some people who enter the country illegally, in response to a comment about MS-13. Trump says he will continue to use the term in referring to the gang.
He stated that he was met with “rebuke” from Democrats who said the gang members are people. Trump specifically mentioned House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi.
“They’re not people. These are animals and we have to be very, very tough,” Trump said.
Pelosi had commented more broadly on Trump’s rhetoric and policies on immigrants.
MS-13 has been blamed for some two dozen killings on Long Island the past two years. MS-13, or the Mara Salvatrucha, is believed by federal prosecutors to have thousands of members across the U.S., primarily emigrants from Central America. It has a stronghold in Los Angeles, where it emerged in the 1980s as a neighborhood street gang, but it also has wreaked violence in cities and suburbs across the U.S., including Long Island.
The White House released a fact sheet Monday morning titled “WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIOLENT ANIMALS OF MS-13.”
Trump has used the violence to bolster the urgency of his push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, as well as the need to build a border wall with Mexico and enact tougher travel restrictions. He’s also argued for loosening restrictions on law enforcement, encouraging police officers whom he calls “rough guys.”
“Please don’t be too nice,” he told law enforcement officials in a similar trip he made to Long Island last July.
The president has called for an end to “catch-and-release” policies, which generally refers to the release of unauthorized immigrants while they await immigration hearings instead of keeping them in custody as well as changes ro rules governing minors and asylum seekers.
Gidley claims the policies “allow hundreds of thousands of illegal and unauthorized aliens to gain entry and release in the United States” and says they can be exploited by violent gangs, cartels, and drug dealers.
Many teenagers on Long Island have been held on gang accusations, swept up in various federal investigations. But immigration advocates say some teenagers arrested in the crackdowns in New York and California have been unfairly tied to gangs and wrongly held at detention centers.
Trump will also attend a fundraiser in his hometown of New York City on Wednesday evening. The 75-person dinner is expected to raise $5 million for the Republican National Committee and the president’s re-election campaign, the RNC said.