Donald Trump has cheered the reported break-up of a caravan of Central American migrants making their way to the US, having signed an order to deploy troops to protect the “imperilled” border with Mexico.
As the migrants said they would try and push on towards the US border, even as the caravan’s organisers said they would instead disband in Mexico City, Mr Trump celebrated its dismantling and gave credit to the Mexican government for acting to avoid creating “a giant scene”.
“The caravan is largely broken up thanks to the strong immigration laws of Mexico and their willingness to use them so as not to cause a giant scene at our border,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Because of the Trump administration’s actions, border crossings are at a still UNACCEPTABLE 46 year low. Stop drugs!”
The president’s comments came a day after it was announced he had signed an order to deploy National Guard troops to help “protect” the border with Mexico.
“It’s time to act,” said Kirstjen Nielsen, said the secretary of homeland security, speaking to reporters at a White House briefing. “We do hope the deployment begins immediately. We’re working with all haste.”
In the memo signed by Mr Trump on Wednesday evening, the president called on the defence secretary Jim Mattis to “request use of National Guard personnel” to secure the border.
“The security of the United States is imperilled by a drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border,” he wrote.
“During the administrations of presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama, the National Guard provided support for efforts to secure our southern border. The crisis at our southern border once again calls for the National Guard to help secure our border and protect our homeland.”
By law, active duty troops are generally prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement duties, such as stopping people trying to enter the country illegally. But as Mr Trump’s memo said, previous presidents have used the National Guard to provide assistance at the nation’s southern border.
The Republican governors of three states that border Mexico – Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico – announced their support for the president’s plan. California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has also suggested his officials will cooperate.
“This request – as with others we’ve received from the Department of Homeland Security, including those for additional staffing in 2006 and 2010 – will be promptly reviewed to determine how best we can assist our federal partners,” California National Guard spokesman Lt Col Tom Keegan said in a statement issued on behalf of Mr Brown. “We look forward to more detail, including funding, duration and end state.”
Ms Nielsen told Fox News she had been in contact with the governors of border states to discuss the prospect of deploying troops, including Mr Brown.
“We have everything on the table, I can assure you. We’re looking at every way we can act within the executive branch but I really will continue to ask Congress to please work with me in the next couple months to pass legislation,” she said. “I never talk to a senator or congressman who doesn’t tell me that they”re in favour of border security. Let’s put forward a legislative proposal that can pass.”
Reuters said some of the migrants that are part of a caravan currently located in southern Mexico, said they would still try and reach the border with the US. However, fearful of the risks to children among the travellers, the organisers of the annual caravan, US-based advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said it would end in the capital, not at the border as had been planned.
“It’s not because of Donald Trump,” said Irineo Mujica, director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which has staged the caravan since 2010 to draw attention to migrants’ rights. Many of the migrants are from countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, which all suffer from huge problems with gang violence and poverty.
Mexican officials have screened people in the caravan, stalling it and dispersing migrants. The foreign ministry denied putting pressure on the migrants, saying that the caravan was breaking up of its own volition, the news agency said.
Mexico has expressed concern about Mr Trump’s deployment of troops to the border and requested clarification about the number of soldiers and their likely roles. Mexico’s Ambassador to the US, Geronimo Gutierrez, said his government had formally asked the Trump administration to elaborate on Mr Trump’s remarks.
“The important thing is that both countries share the idea of having a secure border,” he said. “We don’t always agree in how to achieve that objective, and I do expect that, in the next few hours, we will get clarification on this issue.”
At the same time, Mexico’s Senate issued a stern rebuke to Mr Trump, urging its government to end cooperation with the US on migration and security.
In a motion which passed the Senate floor unanimously, the politicians also condemned Mr Trump’s aggressive rhetoric towards Mexico, describing the president’s decision this week to send troops to the border as “one more insult”.
“[Trump’s] conduct has been permanently and systematically, not only disrespectful, but insulting, based on prejudices and misinformation and making frequent use of threats and blackmail,” Laura Rojas, ahead of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, said in support of the motion.
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