Photo: Susan Walsh (AP)

Nearly half an hour into a rambling, low-energy press conference that seemed more like an understated stump speech rather than a policy event, President Donald Trump casually announced plans to launch a vicious assault on the United States’ current asylum process. He also threatened to massacre migrants if they so much as throw a rock.

Rattling off his usual list of lies, half-truths, and xenophobic musings about the Central American caravan of asylum seekers working their way through Mexico en route to the U.S., the president made clear that he saw the thousands of people traveling to take part in a completely legal process as an “invasion.”

“Asylum is not a program for those living in poverty,” Trump said.

Then he dropped his bombshell: A proposed change to America’s laws which would see ports of entry become the sole forum for migrants to apply for asylum, and deny claims of asylum from any undocumented immigrant caught within the United States. It would, in effect, throttle the asylum process to a crawl, while giving the government another excuse to detain—and subsequently deport—undocumented immigrants, regardless of their circumstances.

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After announcing his assault on the asylum system, Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric even further, essentially giving federal agents—to say nothing of the 7,000 troops dispatched to the border—free rein to shoot at “anybody throwing stones, rocks.”

“We will consider that a firearm,” Trump stated.

His nudge-nudge-wink-wink tacit green light comes less than a week after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Fox News she had no intention of authorizing border patrol agents to shoot at migrants—although, she added, agents “do have the ability of course to defend themselves.” Which means, yeah, open fire on migrants.

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Trump’s press conference is just the latest pre-midterm attempt by the White House to scare the bejeezus out of his Republican base with images of scary immigrants coming to kill their families. Earlier this week, the administration announced that it was sending 5,200 troops to the border, but in an insane interview with ABC News last night, Trump said that number could get to as high as 15,000.