- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2018

President Trump threatened Friday to slap tariffs or other sanctions on China and other countries that refuse to cooperate in taking back their illegal immigrants and criminals, saying he was determined to get serious about the problem.

“If they don’t take them back, we’ll put sanctions on the countries. We’ll put tariffs on the countries. They’ll take them back so fast your head will spin,” the president said as he toured a Homeland Security facility in Sterling, Virginia.

He was being briefed on the rising dangers of MS-13, drug smugglers and illegal immigrants who are exploiting legal loopholes to gain a foothold in the U.S.

The briefing comes as Mr. Trump is trying to push Congress to close the legal loopholes and step up border security and interior enforcement as part of a broader immigration deal.

The president said he’s determined to strike a bargain that will also protect illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” but said Democrats are refusing to deal. He said that means they’re abandoning the Dreamers.

Mr. Trump was briefed by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the chiefs of the border and interior immigration agencies, as well as State Department officials.

The State Department told the president they’re making progress on getting countries to take back their deportees, but some major ones remain recalcitrant, including China.

“We’ve had a very weak policy,” Mr. Trump said. “They say, ‘We don’t want them.’ And why should they? They killed five people. Why would they want them?”

He directed the State Department to work on writing up sanctions or other punishments, such as withholding foreign aid.

“We give a lot of aid to some of those countries. And to those countries, we’ll stop giving aid, and they will take them back instantaneously,” he said. “You just have to let us know just who they are. A lot of ways to handle it.”

He did promise only to use economic levers, saying, “you’re not going to force them in.”

His administration has already made significant progress.

In May 2016 there were 23 countries on the “recalcitrant” list, meaning they were deemed uncooperative in taking back their people. As of December, that was down to nine countries.

The number of countries on the watch-list in danger of becoming recalcitrant has also dropped nearly 25 percent under Mr. Trump, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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