President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he’s calling on the military to guard the US-Mexico border until his long-promised border wall is complete.
“I told Mexico, and I respect what they did, I said, look, your laws are very powerful, your laws are very strong. We have very bad laws for our border and we are going to be doing some things, I spoke with (Defense Secretary James) Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. 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,” he said during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic states.
He continued: “We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court.”
Trump has privately floated the idea of funding construction of a border wall with Mexico through the US military budget in conversations with advisers, two sources confirmed to CNN last week. His remarks Tuesday come on the heels of multiple days of hardline immigration rhetoric from the Trump White House, with the President calling on Congress to pass strict border laws in a series of tweets beginning Sunday.
The President also spoke about the caravan of migrants from Central America currently moving through Mexico who plan to turn themselves in and request asylum once they make it to the US border. He has demanded a halt to the caravan in a series of tweets.
“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic — you (the Baltic leaders) would not understand this ’cause I know your laws are strong at the border — it’s like we have no border,” he said.
Trump said he told Mexico “very strongly” that “you’re going to have to do something about these caravans.”
While he said the US is renegotiating the NAFTA trade deal with Mexico and Canada, he emphasized that border security would have to be part of the deal.
Among the new measures the administration is pursuing: ending special safeguards that prevent the immediate deportation of children arrested at the border and traveling alone. Under current law, unaccompanied children from countries that don’t border the U.S. are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services and undergo often lengthy deportation proceedings before an immigration judge instead of being deported.
The administration is also pushing Congress to terminate a 1997 court settlement that requires the government to release children from custody to parents, adult relatives or other caretakers as their court cases proceed. Officials complain that many children never show up at their hearings.
The proposals appear the same as those included on an immigration wish list the White House released in October but failed to gain traction during negotiations over the border wall. Such proposals are likely to face opposition from moderate Republicans and Democrats going into the midterm elections. But Trump appears intent on ensuring the issues remain at the forefront of public conversation, even though the spending bill was widely seen as the last major legislation likely passed this year.
Trump’s past calls to for the “nuclear option” — changing Senate rules so that a simple majority of 51 votes is needed to advance legislation, instead of the current 60 votes — have been dismissed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell says Republicans will welcome the 60-vote margin if they return to the minority. The current 51-49 Senate split favors Republicans.
Trump announced last year that he was ending the program that protects young “Dreamer” immigrants, but the Department of Homeland Security is continuing to issue renewals because of a court order.
Notably, his favored solution for extending protections to them mustered only 39 votes in the Senate, meaning it couldn’t have passed even if the rules had been changed.
Trump’s tweets calling on Mexico to halt “caravans” followed a “Fox & Friends” report Sunday that featured the leader of the union representing border patrol agents predicting that those in the caravan would create havoc and chaos in the U.S. as they wait for immigration reform.
About 1,100 migrants, many from Honduras, have been marching along roadsides and train tracks in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
These “Stations of the Cross” migrant caravans have been held in southern Mexico for at least the last five years. They began as short processions of migrants, some dressed in biblical garb and carrying crosses, as an Easter-season protest against attacks against Central Americans as they cross Mexico.
Individuals in the caravans often try to reach the U.S. border but usually not as part of the caravan. The caravans typically don’t proceed much farther north than the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. The current march is scheduled to end this month with a conference on migration issues in the central Mexican state of Puebla.