During a visit to Calexico, California last Friday, President Donald Trump reportedly told Border Patrol agents to defy U.S. law and refuse to allow migrants into the country.
"Behind the scenes," CNN reported Monday, citing two anonymous sources, "the president told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don't have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, 'Sorry, judge, I can't do it. We don't have the room.'"
"After the president left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the president said they would take on personal liability," according to CNN. "You have to follow the law, they were told."
Critics were quick to argue that the president's reported remarks amount to a blatant violation of his constitutional duty:
This is extraordinarily dangerous and a clear breach of his oath of office. https://t.co/0SngKUsVR1
— Kenneth Zinn (@kennethzinn) April 9, 2019
The president also aggressively pushed to reinstate his family separation policy, CNN reported, confirming earlier reporting from NBC.
"He just wants to separate families," an anonymous senior administration official told CNN.
CNN's report came just as a federal judge in California blocked Trump's policy of forcing some asylum-seekers to return to Mexico as they await a court appearance.
Charanya Krishnaswami, advocacy director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, welcomed the judge's ruling in a statement, calling the president's policy "cruel and irresponsible."
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"Asylum-seekers passing through Mexico have already endured dangerous journeys to flee desperate situations," Krishnaswami said. "Returning them to Mexico and forcing them to wait there would put them at real risk of serious human rights violations. As it currently stands, the policy gravely violates both domestic and international law."
BREAKING: A federal court has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s new policy forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico to wait while their cases are considered.
The president can’t ignore our laws to accomplish his goal of preventing people from seeking asylum here.
— ACLU (@ACLU) April 8, 2019
Trump in recent days has openly threatened to "close" the U.S.-Mexico border and—as Common Dreams reported—called on Congress to "get rid of the whole asylum system."
"And frankly," Trump told reporters outside the White House last week, "we should get rid of judges."
The president's increasingly erratic immigration rhetoric comes as he is carrying out staff changes that critics warn could make his policies toward migrants even more brutal.
On Sunday, Trump forced out Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen—a move that is reportedly part of a broader Homeland Security "purge" that will place more power in the hands of the president's xenophobic adviser Stephen Miller.
As CBS reported, "U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph 'Tex' Alles was fired Monday, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Cissna, DHS undersecretary for management Claire Grady and DHS general counsel John Mitnick are also leaving the administration."