President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a warning to the migrants participating in a caravan thousands of miles away from the U.S. border: don’t throw rocks at soldiers if you don’t want to get shot at.
Trump issued the warning during a press briefing on the issue of immigration.
“I will tell you this, anybody throwing stones, rocks…we will consider that a firearm, because there’s not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock,” he said, according to reporting from Politico.
The migrants in Central America are en route to the United States in hopes of applying for asylum status. Some are fleeing gang violence and government oppression, reports from the BBC said, but Trump cast doubts on those claims and suggested that the bulk of immigrants were fleeing impoverished conditions instead.
“Asylum is not a program for those living in poverty. There are billions of people in the world living at the poverty level. The United States cannot possibly absorb them all,” Trump stated during the press briefing, reported the Independent.
The comments from Trump this week and from before have led some to speculate whether he’s pushing an anti-immigrant stance in order to help Republicans in the midterm elections. Fox News host Shepard Smith, for example, opined that being just a few days from election day was what “all of this is about,” according to reporting from the Huffington Post.
Indeed, the caravan of migrants is still a 1,000 miles away, and many are estimating their arrival to the U.S. won’t come for another couple of months, suggesting that the urgency that Trump has been displaying isn’t necessary at this point.
Trump has been pushing anti-immigration rhetoric in other ways throughout the run-up to the midterms. He has even suggested he may try to issue an executive order to end birthright citizenship rights, and would be prepared to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, even though an executive order cannot override the rules of citizenship set forth within the U.S. Constitution, according to previous reporting from Inquisitr.
Trump added on Thursday that he would seek to limit where migrants could apply for asylum, saying that his administration would only accept claims at legal entry points. He said this was necessary because many considered the caravan to be “an invasion.”
That change in how immigrants can apply for asylum goes against what has been established protocol for immigrants living in the United States. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, immigrants, even those who are undocumented, may apply for asylum anywhere in the country so long as they’re not currently involved in removal proceedings and they file for asylum within one year of arriving to the U.S.