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Trump focuses on immigration issues ahead of midterm elections

Earlier this month, President Trump offered a campaign strategy for Republicans in the midterm elections. "Republicans must make the horrendous, weak and outdated immigration laws, and the Border, a part of the Midterms!" he wrote on Twitter. 

And as he has ratcheted up his campaign presence in the final weeks before the midterm elections, Mr. Trump has emphasized the dangers of illegal immigration in rallies and tweets. On Tuesday, Axios reported that Mr. Trump wants to sign an executive order that would remove automatic citizenship for non-citizens and illegal immigrants born in the United States.

Mr. Trump has made stricter immigration laws a key part of his platform since he announced he would run for president. Announcing his candidacy in 2015, Mr. Trump claimed that Mexico was not "sending their best" to the United States, and that people crossing the souther border were "bringing crime," "bringing drugs" and were "rapists." 

His promise to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico captured the imagination of his supporters, and "build the wall" remains a common chant at campaign rallies. Before and after he was elected president, Mr. Trump has raised the specter of MS-13 gang members coming into the country and embroiling communities in gang violence.

This rhetoric, among other campaign strategies, motivated some of the voters who helped get Mr. Trump elected. As he is not on the ballot this year, some Republicans are concerned that many of the voters who turned out to support Mr. Trump in 2016 may stay at home in November. Mr. Trump has tried to combat this by making multiple campaign appearances -- including 10 rallies in the upcoming week -- and emphasizing that a vote in the midterms is a vote for his agenda.

"I'm not on the ballot," Mr. Trump said at a rally in Mississippi earlier this month. "But in a certain way, I'm on the ballot. So, please go out and vote."

Mr. Trump has also turned to the familiar strategy of criticizing illegal immigration, and those coming into the country illegally. At recent rallies, Mr. Trump has incorrectly claimed that Democrats universally support "open borders" and abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a position that's been embraced by only some Democratic candidates for office. 

"Democrat immigration policies allow poisonous drugs and MS-13 to pour into our country, and Democrat sanctuary cities release dangerous criminals from jail and into your neighborhoods," Mr. Trump said at a rally in Texas earlier this month.

A Pew Research poll from earlier this month found that 75 percent of Republicans said that illegal immigration was a "very big" problem in the country today. So if his goal is to move his voters to the polls, Mr. Trump's focus on illegal immigration could be a winning strategy.

Recently, Mr. Trump has turned to another supposed threat coming from across the southern border: a caravan of a few thousand migrants from Central America attempting to enter the United States. 

"Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally," Mr. Trump tweeted last week. He has also claimed, without evidence, that the caravan contains Middle Easterners, implicitly suggesting that terrorists may be attempting to use it to enter through the southern border.

However, most of the members of the caravan are not trying to enter the country illegally, but are instead are legally seeking asylum. The caravan is not expected to arrive at the U.S. before the midterm elections, and may not get to the border for weeks.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump has called the caravan "an invasion of our country," and is deploying 5,200 active-duty military troops to the border in response. The president has repeated at recent rallies that the upcoming election is the election of "the caravan," among other conservative priorities.

The president escalated his hard-line tactics on immigration on Tuesday morning, with the prospective executive order to revoke citizenship for non-citizens born in the U.S. It is unlikely that Mr. Trump can accomplish this via an executive order, although Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican and stalwart Trump ally, said he would introduce legislation mirroring the president's proposal. 

Mr. Trump gave no timetable for this executive order. He similarly proposed a tax cut earlier this month to be accomplished before the midterm elections, even though Congress was out of session.

  • Grace Segers

    Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.