President Trump slammed longstanding U.S. immigration policies Tuesday for loopholes by which criminal aliens and illegal immigrants are able to beat the system and avoid deportation, and said he's willing to entertain another government shutdown in order to fix them.
"Not another country in the world has the stupidity of laws that we do when it comes to immigration," Trump said during a White House roundtable on the MS-13 gang Tuesday afternoon.
"We'll do a shutdown. And it's worth it for our country. I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't see this stuff taken care of," Trump added, in regard to loopholes in laws regarding the admissibility of unaccompanied minors.
"The world is laughing at us because they can't believe these policies ... If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don't want safety, and unrelated but still related, they don't want to take care of our military, then shut it down."
Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement officials briefed Trump on how the transnational criminal organization recruits and sends Salvadoran boys between 10 and 18 years old to the U.S., where they are able to use the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which gives legal protections to asylum or trafficked victims, to remain in the country.
The White House asked Congress last week to amend the TVPRA in a way that permits the safe and prompt repatriation of unaccompanied minors who are not genuine victims of trafficking.
Current policy mandates children from noncontiguous countries (all except Mexico and Canada) are permitted to remain in the U.S. The change would block underage gang members from Central American nations from entering the country.
The White House has also asked that the TVPRA's Flores Amendment be changed to allow law enforcement the ability to detain unaccompanied children and family until their removal proceedings are concluded, which would avoid their being released into the interior of the country.
An estimated 10,000 MS-13 gang members are present in the U.S., approximately one-third of the total number around the world. About 3,000 MS-13 members are believed to be in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region.
Later on in the meeting, Trump again emphasized his willingness to shut down the government to keep MS-13 members out of the country.
"I would shut it down over this issue. I can't speak for everybody at the table but I will tell you, I would shut it down over this issue," he said to reporters. "If we don't straighten out our border, we don't have a country. Without borders we don't have a country. So would I would shut it down over this issue? Yes. I can't speak for our great representatives here but I have a feeling they may agree with me."
Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock told Trump a shutdown wasn't needed due to the issue.
"We don't need a government shutdown on this," Comstock said.
Trump, however, was firm in his belief.
"You can say what you want. We are not getting support of the Democrats," Trump said.
BREAKING: President Trump on immigration: “If we don’t get rid of these loopholes... let’s have a shutdown, we’ll do a shutdown, and it's worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.” pic.twitter.com/WbCAPUUf5m— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 6, 2018
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna said Tuesday that the government is struggling to deport some known gang members because there is no law that gives law enforcement the ability to do so.
"There are no grounds in the law right now that permit us to deport a gang member merely because he is a gang member. We have to wait until they've actually killed somebody or harmed an American. Then we have a reason to deport them. Then we can get them," Cissna said during the discussion.
"Similarly there's no ground for inadmissibility," Cissna said, referring to the process in which individuals are screened at the border. "So we can't stop them from coming in and my people may have to grant them an immigration benefit because there's nothing in the law that makes them a gang member, merely because they're a gang member ... Indeed, they might even get citizenship under the law right now."
Last week, Trump released a four-point immigration framework for his concessions and requirements if Congress tries to move on a bill that addresses DACA.
The White House asked for an end to “chain migration,” the replacement of the diversity visa lottery with a skill-based system, and $25 billion in funding for border security in return for a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million illegal immigrants.
Congress is two days away from another shutdown, when last month’s continuing resolution and government funding is set to expire.
Days before Christmas, Congress approved a short-term spending bill that funded the government through mid-January.
Lawmakers clashed over whether to address the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in the funding bill.
Democrats wanted the Obama-era executive order to be codified well in advance of the March 5th expiration date, while Republicans advocated for funding and promised to deal with the program before Feb. 8.
The fight led to a three-day shutdown that concluded Jan. 22 with conservatives’ promise that the immigration issue would be resolved within the next two weeks.
However, politicians and the White House have not reached a deal on whether to legislation DACA in the next continuing resolution.