With eyes on midterms, Trump embraces immigration fight


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Calling the shots as his West Wing clears out, President Donald Trump sees his hard-line immigration stance as a winning issue heading into a midterm election he views as a referendum on his protectionist policies.

“You have to stand for something,” Trump declared Tuesday, as he defended his administration’s immigration policy amid mounting criticism over the forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The chorus of condemnation includes Democrats, as well as Republicans, who are increasingly worried that reports about bereft children taken from their parents could damage the GOP’s chances in November.

Still, Trump believes that his immigration pledges helped win him the presidency and that his most loyal supporters want him to follow through. While he made a rare trip to Capitol Hill late Tuesday to meet with GOP legislators seeking a solution, Trump remains confident that projecting toughness on immigration is the right call, said five White House officials and outside advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

“It’s amazing how people are surprised that he’s keeping the promises he made on the campaign trail now,” said Trump political adviser Bill Stepien.

While the White House signaled Trump may be open to a narrow fix to deal with the problem, the president spent the day stressing immigration policies that he has championed throughout his surprise political career.

He has resisted calls to reverse the separation policy, saying any change must come through Congress.

In a speech to a business group earlier Tuesday, Trump said he wanted to see legislation deal with family separation, which, he said, “We don’t want.”

He also emphasized border security and again made the false argument that Democrats are to blame for the family separation problem.

Said Trump: “Politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety, that has to be protected.”

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