President Donald Trump says he would sign only a sweeping immigration bill, rejecting the idea of more modest legislation featuring border wall funding and protections for individuals brought into the country by their parents as youngsters.
In an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday morning, the president was asked if he would sign a bill what would amount to a mini-bargain on immigration.
“I think it’s time to get the whole package,” the president responded. That would mean a bill featuring wall funding and provisions addressing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, as well as changes to the visa lottery system and so-called “chain migration.”
Trump said he will not sign any of the handful of immigration bills the House is expected to consider next month unless it includes funding for “a real wall” and “very strong border security.” He told Fox he is “watching one or two” of those bills, but he did not specify which ones.
He also repeated what appears to be one of his themes for the midterm congressional campaign season, hammering senior Democratic leaders and painting them as soft on immigration and violent groups like the MS-13 gang.
“The lottery is ridiculous, as you know. They’re not putting their finest in the lottery,” Trump said of other countries. On those who enter the country via family ties, the president uttered a line that will surely rile congressional Democrats: “Not one of them do you want in this country.” And he dubbed both the lottery program and chain migration “terrible.”
As he often does, he slammed the so-called “catch-and-release” program, saying many undocumented individuals detained under that initiative simply “go into society and they don’t come to the trial — it’s crazy.”
The president also blasted the U.S. immigration system for using judges to help determine who is allowed to enter the country. He appeared dismayed by the use of the judges and the need for “thousands” more, saying other countries merely use “security people who stand there and say, ‘You can’t come in.’”
On North Korea, Trump left the door open to a disarmament deal that would allow Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons in stages.
“I’d like to have it done immediately. But, you know, physically a phase-in might have to be a little bit necessary. It’d have to be a rapid phase-in,” he said. “I’d like to see it done at one time.”
When asked about his ongoing spat with former FBI Director James Comey and the ongoing Justice Department probe, Trump quickly pivoted to his assessment of the U.S. economy.
He did describe Comey as one of several “rotten apples” he inherited at the top of the Justice Department’s leadership ranks, saying he did the country a “great service” when he ousted Comey. But Trump, unprompted by his interviewer, lauded what he called the strongest economy in U.S. history, touting the overall unemployment rate and that of groups like African-Americans and women.
As in many Trump interviews, there was one notable contradiction: The president said his administration is “doing spectacular trade deals.” But just two days ago, Trump admitted to reporters he was not satisfied with a recently concluded round of trade talks with China.
“China has made a fortune,” he said Tuesday of the Asian powerhouse’s trade relationship with the United States. “I’m not satisfied, but we have a long way to go.”
Watch: Rubio Leads Chorus of Lawmakers Critical of Trump’s Trade Talks With China