Donald Trump attempted to walk back his praise of Hezbollah by proposing new crackdowns targeting immigrants from Muslim countries, evoking sentiments of the so-called Muslim ban he enacted as president in 2017.
In rambling remarks during a campaign stop in Clive, Iowa, on Monday night, the 2024 Republican front-runner said he would introduce screenings based on ideology if he were to return to the White House. He also said his administration would deport immigrants residing in the US whom he accused of holding “jihadist sympathies”.
“I will immediately reinstate and expand the wildly successful Trump travel ban on entry from terror-plagued countries, territories and places,” he said.
“No longer will we allow dangerous lunatics, haters, bigots and maniacs to get residency in our country. We're not going to let them stay here.”
The comments follow a similar anti-immigration policy taken up by Florida Governor and Republican rival Ron DeSantis, who over the weekend proposed the US should not permit any Gaza civilians from entering the country because they “are all anti-Semitic”.
Republicans and Democrats were quick to condemn Mr Trump last week when he criticised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israel's intelligence failure in the lead-up to the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 people in Israel. He had also praised the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group as “very smart”.
“If you empathise with radical Islamic terrorists and extremists, you're disqualified. You're just disqualified. If you want to abolish the state of Israel, you're disqualified,” Mr Trump said on Monday.
“If you support Hamas or any ideology that's having to do with that or any of the other really sick thoughts that go through people's minds, very dangerous thoughts, you're disqualified.”
He also said that he would send deportation agents to patrol “pro-jihadist demonstrations” and remove those with anti-Semitic views.
The comments from Mr Trump are similar to those he made as a presidential candidate in 2016 where he called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims from entering the country.
Mr Trump made frequent Islamophobic comments in the year leading up to the presidential election in which he called for a Muslim database, claimed Muslims celebrated the September 11 terrorist attacks, suggested the US monitor mosques and more.
He signed an executive order in 2017 banning foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days. He later imposed two revised travel bans targeting six majority-Muslim countries, Venezuela and North Korea.
The Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 5-4 ruling in 2018.
President Joe Biden ended the ban after he was sworn into office in 2021.