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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — President Donald Trump said in a speech here Wednesday night he would soon introduce legislation that immigrants to America should not receive welfare benefits for at least five years.
The new measure will stipulate that “those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump said as the crowd of thousands at the campaign-style rally exploded into extended applause.
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But those requirements, or something similar to them, already exist.
Legislation backed by then-President Bill Clinton, called the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996," states immigrants are "not eligible for any federal means-tested public benefit" for five years beginning when they come into the country. However, the law has exceptions and additional legislation since its passage has also affected eligibility.
The White House did not respond to a request for more information about the legislation, which Trump promised would be coming "very shortly."
The president also said that “those coming into our country must embrace our values” and he renewed calls for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, saying publicly what he reportedly had said privately to fellow lawmakers — that the wall would include solar panels.
“We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall,” Trump told supporters gathered at the U.S. Cellular Center here. “This way, Mexico will have to pay much less money.”
Mexican officials have repeatedly said they will not pay for the wall.
The surprise immigration policy announcement came during an hour-long speech in which a free-wheeling Trump, standing in front of banners that touted "Promises Made" and "Promises Kept," focused on what he portrayed as wins already notched and victories his supporters would relish in the future.
The successes that were top of mind for Trump included Republican congressional wins on Tuesday night in Georgia and South Carolina — prompting the president to deride media coverage that he said had imagined a Democratic victory.
"The truth is people love us," Trump said.
He taunted Democrats for fielding 30-year-old Jon Ossoff in the Georgia race against Republican Karen Handel. Democrats spent "close to $30 million on this kid, who forgot to live in the community," Trump said, referencing the fact that Ossoff lived outside of the House district and couldn't vote for himself on Election Day.
The barb came just moments after the president lamented his inability to garner bipartisan support for his legislative goals, including healthcare. "If we had even a little Democrat support, like a couple votes, you'd have everything," he told the crowd.
Less than a minute later, after bashing Democrats for their optimism about possibly winning in Georgia, Trump acknowledged that his comments were "making it hard to get their support, but who cares?"
He also launched into a rambling defense of his top economic advisers' personal wealth — citing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, a former top executive at Goldman Sachs — both multi-millionaires.
"Someone said why did you hire a rich person to be in charge of economy? That's the kind of thinking we want!" Trump said, adding that "in those particular positions, I don't want a poor person."