In 2018, 15 days before the midterm elections, the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection considered deploying a “heat ray” on migrants at the US border.
On 22 October 2018 president Donald Trump told his Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that “extreme action” needed to be taken to stop migrants from entering the US, as he used anti-immigration rhetoric as part of the Republican midterm campaign.
Officials discussed deploying a microwave weapon, that was designed by the military to make people’s skin feel like it is burning when in range of its invisible beams, at the border to deter migrants, according to the New York Times.
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The device was developed by the US military 20 years prior for use as a crowd dispersal tool, but the Times reported that it had been discarded over concerns about its morality and effectiveness.
Two Homeland Security officials who were at the meeting told the Times that attendees were shocked at the suggestion and that Ms Nielsen ordered staff to not authorise the use of the device and told them to never bring it up in front of her again.
Alexei Woltornist, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, told the Times on Wednesday that use of the device “was never considered.”
Immigration has been a key component of president Trump’s time in the White House, and his 2016 campaign was dominated by his claim that the US would build a border wall to prevent Mexican migrants entering the country.
The device was not the only idea briefly considered by the president, as he also suggested building a moat filled with alligators and installing spikes on the wall, the Times reported.
The Democrats took back control of Congress 15 days after the discussion about the device, but Mr Trump has continued to place immigration at the forefront of his campaign, despite attempts from the Republicans to soften his stance.
On the second day of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, the president presided over a small citizenship naturalisation ceremony.
“Today, America rejoices as we welcome five absolutely incredible new members into our great American family,” president Trump said, as five immigrants took the oath to become US citizens.
However, last month Mr Trump tweeted: “We have now built 240 Miles of new Border Wall on our Southern Border. We will have over 450 Miles built by the end of the year.
“Have established some of the best Border Numbers ever. The Radical Left Democrats want Open Borders for anyone, including many criminals, to come in!”
In April, the president issued a temporary executive order amid the coronavirus pandemic, that banned people wanting to come to the US from receiving Green Cards for 60 days, which would have prevented his wife Melania from becoming a US citizen.
Mr Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller also said in an interview last week: “The public health necessity and the economic necessity of controlling immigration has placed the view of the Democrat left even more radically outside the pale of mainstream American thought.”
The Biden campaign has hit back against false claims made by the president and his team, including Mr Trump’s suggestion that the Democrats want “open borders”.
A spokesman for Mr Biden’s presidential campaign, Andrew Bates, told the Times in a statement: “Doubling down on divisive poison says one thing to voters: that even after all his devastating failed leadership has cost us.
“And even though Joe Biden has been showing him the way for months — Donald Trump still has no strategy for overcoming the pandemic, the overwhelming priority for the American people.”