The White House is looking at having President Donald Trump deliver a major speech next week on immigration and the border, bringing those issues to the forefront just days before the November election, a White House official said.
Trump is seeking to capitalize on the progress of the caravan marching toward the US-Mexico border and is urging his aides to develop plans that will allow him to act with force. Trump and his aides also believe the issue is a politically potent one -- not just with his base -- but also with a broader swath of voters turned off by the perception that the southern border is being overrun with immigrants.
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The White House is encouraging surrogates to get out and talk about the caravan, a source close to the White House said, as Trump pushes to make immigration the focus of his closing argument to Republican voters.
Aides have floated a potential executive order aimed at restricting migrants in the caravan, the source close to the White House said. It would rely on the same legal rationale as the travel ban issued early in the administration against some Muslim-majority countries to allow immediate repatriation of Central American migrants. That order could prevent those migrants from seeking asylum and entering the United States if they reach the border, but the source said aides are still "trying to figure out the best way to write it" so the order can withstand court challenges.
One of the plans under consideration is some kind of presidential order to deal with asylum seekers. The plan is still under active consideration and has not been finalized, the aide said.
Another White House official declined to specifically confirm reports that an order is being considered, but the official said that all options are on the table for dealing with the caravan.
"The administration is considering a wide range of administrative, legal and legislative options to address the Democrat-created crisis of mass illegal immigration," the official said. "No decisions have been made at this time. Nor will we forecast to smugglers or caravans what precise strategies will or will not be deployed."
It is also not clear if Trump will sign anything at that speech in part because the administration is still actively working out the legal framework for an effort to stop or curtail the degree to which migrants in the caravan are able to gain asylum in the United States.
Trump has tweeted repeatedly about the caravan in recent days, threatening that migrants traveling north would not be permitted to enter the United States.
Midterm rallying cry
Republicans locked in close contests around the country have latched onto Trump's immigration message as they scramble to stave off what could be a wave of support for Democrats on Election Day.
For example, Congressional Leadership Fund, the political action committee aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, dropped an ad on Friday for Jim Hagedorn, a Minnesota Republican candidate, using the mass migration movement to attack the Democratic congressional candidate running against Hagedorn.
"The caravan is full of gang members and criminals," a voice on the ad says as grainy images of the caravan flash across the screen.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican running for an open Senate seat in Tennessee, on Friday repeated Trump's unproven claim that the group of several thousand migrants heading toward the US includes "those that are in gangs" and "terrorists." Blackburn said the migrants are attempting to enter the country as "an invading force," accusing her Democratic opponent of wanting to welcome the caravan into the country and grant them rights.
Trump has acknowledged there is "no proof" of his claim that Middle Easterners are traveling among the migrants traversing Mexico. He has urged Mexico to prevent the caravan from reaching the US border, and has even threatened to reduce or sever aid to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras if people from those countries successfully migrate to the US.