Former President Donald Trump repeatedly inquired about the possibility of sending US troops into Mexico to fight the drug cartels in the country, tweeting that it was time “to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the Earth” after nine Americans were killed.
Trump immigration aide Stephen Miller months later pushed the Department of Homeland Security for an estimate of how many service members it would take to secure the entire southern border to stop migrants from entering the country and spread Covid-19 as the pandemic was getting underway in March 2020.
The number that was provided was 250,000 – more than half the US Army. It remains unclear if it was DHS or Pentagon officials who made the estimation. The proposal was discussed by top military and Defence Department officials, as well as at the White House.
The Defence Secretary at the time, Mark Esper, was reportedly furious at Mr Miller’s plan. He thought the deployment of that many troops would damage the US military’s readiness around the world.
The Times report that Mr Esper had a “brief but contentious confrontation” with Mr Miller in the Oval Office, after which he ended the consideration of the idea at the Pentagon. Officials said the idea wasn’t formally presented to Mr Trump.
Mr Trump stopped pushing for US troops to hunt down drug cartels around the same time that Mr Miller started arguing that 250,000 should be sent to the border.
The then-president was convinced not to push for an invasion of Mexico when staffers told Mr Trump that it would look like the US was going to war with a close ally.
The Trump administration instead used the public health rule Title 42 to stop migrants from applying for asylum arguing that they posed a health risk during the pandemic. Public health experts have rejected the idea that asylum seekers would pose more of a risk to the health of the nation than issues like US citizens refusing to get vaccinated.
“It makes no sense from a public health perspective. It makes no sense at all,” Dr Ronald Waldman, the president of Doctors of the World, a human rights organisation, told Rolling Stone magazine in September.
“The prohibition for crossing the border has been applied selectively to asylum seekers, but students are allowed to cross the border, business people are allowed to cross the border, there’s a lot of people crossing the border. It’s a laughable line of reasoning. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re trying to convince people of the importance of public health and to listen to the advice and recommendations of public health authorities. It’s making a mockery of public health.”
“I think many of us were hopeful that with the advent of the Biden administration, some of the most specious and spurious policies like Title 42 [would be revoked],” Dr Michele Heisler, the medical director at Physicians for Human Rights, told the magazine. “There has never, ever been any public health basis for singling out asylum-seekers for deportation.”
The Biden administration has also used Title 42 and was forced to defend the policy as they deported thousands of Haitians last month.
Mr Miller told The New York Times: “With economies and health care systems faltering across the planet, our southwest border would have become the epicentre of illicit Covid fueled migration – one giant, never-ending superspreader event.”
“Instead, the border was successfully sealed and the would-be violators and spreaders got the message and stayed home,” he added.
The US and Mexico have a history of collaboration when it comes to fighting the drug cartels. Operations with the FBI and police have taken place after invitations from the Mexican government.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rejected Mr Trump’s idea to go to war with the cartels.
“We appreciate and thank very much President Trump and any foreign government that wants to help, but in these cases, we have to act with independence,” he said.
The Independent has reached out to the office of Mr Trump for comment.
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