Donald Trump weighs in on German immigration debate

Andrew Cummings
June 19, 2018

Seehofer last week defied Merkel to announce a tough new immigration policy that would see some asylum seekers turned away at the borders of Germany.

But Merkel is firmly opposed, warning that it would leave countries at the EU's geographic southern periphery alone to deal with the migrant influx.

Malta also turned the vessel away, sparking a major European Union row until Spain agreed to take in the new arrivals.

While Merkel would welcome a reprieve from an immediate crisis in her coalition, which also includes the Social Democrats, such a move would pile on pressure to deliver an European Union deal.

Merkel's handling of the migrant crisis, which has resulted in the arrival of more than 1.6 million people since 2014, is widely blamed for a rise in support for the far-right Alternative for Germany, which entered parliament after a September election.

The CSU's top priority is a hard October state election in Bavaria in which it is trying to tamp down support for the anti-migration Alternative for Germany party.

Seehofer also sacked Jutta Cordt, the head of the Office for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF), an interior ministry spokesman said late Friday.

In a sign of the frayed nerves, Germany's political and media world lurched into a brief panic Friday as several media outlets fell for a hoax tweet claiming Seehofer's CSU was quitting the coalition. And then: "We don't want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us!".

The survey found that 62 percent of respondents were in favor of turning back undocumented migrants at the border, in line with the stance of Seehofer who is openly challenging Merkel.

Central and eastern European Union nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an European Union quota system that has essentially floundered. In 2016, he threatened Merkel's federal government with a lawsuit if it didn't take measures to further secure the border.

Merkel's talks later Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Germany could prove crucial if she is to have any chance of forging an agreement in Brussels.

That likely prompted Trump's Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to tweet that the Trump administration did not have a policy on separating families at the border, despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recently enacted "zero tolerance" policy of arresting and bringing criminal charges against anyone caught illegally entering the U.S.

Merkel has been asking her coalition to delay addressing the question until European Union leaders convene in Brussels to discuss immigration and other issues affecting the 28 members of the bloc on June 28 and 29.

The European Commission has voiced confidence that EU leaders could agree at a summit next week on handling migrants and refugees, but some diplomats were much less optimistic.

If he actually does so unilaterally in defiance of the chancellor, many observers believe Merkel would likely have to fire him - which in turn could effectively end her current governing coalition and the conservative parties' decades-old alliance in national politics.

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