(DESPARDES/PKONWEB) — President Trump said on Tuesday that he planned to order the military to guard parts of the southern border until he can build a wall and tighten immigration restrictions, proposing a remarkable escalation of his efforts to crack down on migrants entering the country illegally.
He said he was consulting with Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, about resorting to military deployments.
Mr. Trump has been stewing publicly for days about what he characterizes as lax immigration laws and the potential for an influx of Central American migrants to stream into the United States.
“We have very bad laws for our border, and we are going to be doing some things — I’ve been speaking with General Mattis — we’re going to be doing things militarily,” Mr. Trump said at the White House, seated beside the defense secretary at a meeting with visiting leaders of Baltic nations. “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step. We really haven’t done that before, or certainly not very much before.”
“We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States,” Trump said during a subsequent news conference, adding that he would be meeting with Mr. Mattis and other officials on the matter later in the day. “I think it’s something we have to do.”
Trump also last month signed major spending bill that includes $1.6bn for border wall, but much of that money can be used only to repair existing segments.
“We need to have a wall that’s about 700 to 800 miles” of the border, he told reporters on Tuesday. At the press conference he insisted the wall had begun to be built, a misleading claim he has made before, according to The Guardian.
It was not immediately clear what the rationale would be for deploying United States troops to patrol or even seal the border at a time when the numbers of people being apprehended crossing illegally are down to their lowest level since 1971, says a New York Times report.
The active-duty military is generally barred by law from carrying out domestic law enforcement functions, such as apprehending people at the border. But previous presidents have deployed National Guard troops to act in support roles on the border with Mexico — former President Barack Obama sent 1,200 in 2010 and former President George W. Bush dispatched 6,000 in 2006.Governors of border states have done the same when faced with large inflows.
“The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there,” he wrote. “Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!”
Trump also tweeted about “caravans” on Sunday and Monday, while declaring protections for so-called Dreamer migrants “dead”; accusing Democrats of allowing “open borders, drugs and crime”; and warning Mexico to halt the passage of immigrants or risk US abandonment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).