President Trump seized on Tuesday’s truck attack in New York City to propose sweeping immigration reforms, and floated the idea of putting new inmates in Guantanamo Bay.
Ahead of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump spoke briefly to reporters about the assault in lower Manhattan, which left 8 people dead and injured more than a dozen.
The President described the suspect in custody, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, as an “animal,” and hit out at the program Saipov reportedly used in 2010 to come to the US, from Uzbekistan.
Trump stated that his administration was “today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program.”
“Sounds nice—it’s not nice,” the President said Wednesday. “It’s not good. It hasn’t been good. We’ve been against it.”
He called on Congress to draft up legislation formally unwinding the more than 20-year-old State Department program, which offers 50,000 visas every year to individuals from countries with historically low immigration rates to the US.
Trump then attacked the idea of “chain migration,” or family-based immigration, a central theme of the US system that allows those in the country to sponsor relatives abroad to join them.
“We’re going to as quickly as possible get rid of chain migration and move to a merit-based system,” the President said.
The White House earlier this year endorsed legislation known as the RAISE Act that would, among other things, prioritize individuals who speak English.
“We have to get much less politically correct,” Trump said Wednesday. “We’re so politically correct that we’re afraid to do anything.”
In tweets ahead of the cabinet meeting, Trump announced he was stepping up extreme vetting procedures against foreigners arriving to the US.
Tuesday’s attack in New York City also gave the President, and other Republicans, an opportunity to promote a counter-insurgency approach to criminal justice.
“We also have to come up with punishment that is far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now,” Trump said, lamenting that suspects will “go through court for years.”
“We need quick justice and we need strong justice,” he said.
Asked if Saipov should be sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Trump appeared open to the idea. “Send him to Gitmo—I would certainly consider that.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has previously been critical of Guantanamo, also called for Saipov to be held in military detention.
“Take him to Guantanamo,” McCain said Wednesday. “He’s a terrorist, he should be kept there. There’s no Miranda rights for somebody who kills Americans.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he, too, believed Saipov should be held as an enemy combatant.
Forty-one detainees currently remain at Gitmo, though the facility hasn’t accepted any new prisoners since 2008.
The military commission system at the off-shore prison has been often beset by legal challenges and delays. It has only secured eight terrorism-related convictions or plea bargains since 9/11, compared to over 600 people who’ve been convicted on similar offenses in civilian courts.