CLIVE, Iowa (AP) — Doubling down on the hard-line immigration policies that have long animated his base, former President Donald Trump on Monday vowed to bar refugees from Gaza and immediately expand his first-term Muslim travel ban if he wins a second term following the deadly attack on Israel last week.
Speaking to supporters in Iowa, Trump said that if he returns to the Oval Office, he will immediately begin “ideological screening” for all immigrants and bar those who sympathize with Hamas and Muslim extremists. The war between Israel and Hamas has sparked what is now the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides, with more than 4,000 dead.
His proposals would mark a dramatic expansion of the controversial — and legally dubious — policies that drew alarm from immigrant rights and civil liberties activists, but helped him win the GOP primary in 2016. Trump has long railed against the U.S. taking immigrants from countries he has dubbed inferior, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, and told the crowd Monday that while he was president the U.S. stood up for Israel and “Judeo-Christian civilization and values.”
Trump also continued to paint himself as a martyr for his loyal supporters, railing against the four indictments he is facing along with a narrow gag order that was imposed Monday by the federal judge overseeing the 2020 election interference case against him in Washington. The order, which Trump has pledged to appeal, bars him from making statements targeting prosecutors, possible witnesses and court staff.
“I am willing to go to jail if that’s what it takes for our country to become a democracy again,” he said in Clive.
Trump pledged to bar the entry of refugees from Gaza fleeing Israel’s retaliatory strikes after the surprise Oct. 7 attack, just as he tried to bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries during his first term with an executive order. The executive order, however, was met with fierce opposition and was fought all the way to the Supreme Court. The high court eventually upheld a third version of the ban, which included travelers from North Korea and some from Venezuela.
Current and former members of communist and totalitarian parties and their sympathizers are already banned from entry into the U.S. But Trump told about 1,500 people in suburban Des Moines that if he wins a second term, the U.S. would no longer allow what he called “dangerous lunatics, haters, bigots and maniacs to get residency in our country.”
“If you empathize with radical Islamic terrorists and extremists, you’re disqualified," he said. "If you want to abolish the state of Israel, you’re disqualified. If you support Hamas or any ideology that’s having to do with that or any of the other really sick thoughts that go through people’s minds — very dangerous thoughts — you’re disqualified.”
The former president and GOP front-runner also said he would aggressively deport resident aliens with “jihadist sympathies” and send immigration agents to “pro-jihadist demonstrations” to identify violators.
“In the wake of the attacks on Israel, Americans have been disgusted to see the open support for terrorists among the legions of foreign nationals on college campuses. They’re teaching your children hate,” he said. “Under the Trump administration, we will revoke the student visas of radical anti-American and anti-Semitic foreigners at our colleges and universities and we will send them straight back home."
Though Trump's audience in the Horizon Events Center in Clive cheered his proposals, 31-year-old information technology specialist Ritu Bansal said she supported Trump but hoped he would also show compassion for the people of Gaza.
“In my opinion the U.S. government should care for the victims of the Hamas attack on Israel and the civilian victims in Gaza,” Bansal said. “The U.S. can care for both.”
Trump has stepped up his caucus campaigning this fall as his team tries to lock in support to not only avoid a repeat of his 2016 second-place finish but to win an overwhelming victory that would deny momentum to whoever finishes in second place.
Earlier, Trump rallied caucusgoers in Iowa’s rural Dallas County, where he received the endorsement of the state’s attorney general and predicted a landslide victory three months before voting begins in the GOP contest’s kickoff state.
Brenna Bird, Iowa's Republican attorney general, served previously as former Iowa Rep. Steve King’s chief of staff as well as an aide to former Gov. Terry Branstad and Gov. Kim Reynolds. Last year, Bird beat longtime Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller.
By late Monday afternoon, Trump had campaigned before roughly 13,000 people in less than a month. Unlike his seat-of-the-pants campaign in 2016, Trump's team is using the candidate's celebrity to draw interested Republicans and track interest in supporting him in the leadoff caucuses set for Jan. 15.
“Ninety-one days. Are you ready?” Trump asked more than 1,000 supporters packed into a livestock expo barn at the Dallas County fairgrounds in Adel. “We’re going to have a historic landslide,” Trump predicted as he stood flanked by giant bales of hay.
Trump's advisers want to lock in a blowout that discourages talk of a second-place finisher consolidating support and taking on the former president directly.
After Trump’s second-place 2016 finish behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a ragtag effort of big crowds but little organization, state GOP staffers cleaned out his caucus campaign office to find thousands of signed pledge cards that had never been logged.
“I can promise you there is no backlog," said Alex Latcham, a senior Trump adviser and early-state coordinator.
___ Colvin reported from New York.
Thomas Beaumont And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press