- Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
- President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would send the military to the US-Mexico border.
- That statement came after Trump spent several days railing about a group of migrants moving toward the US through Mexico.
- Trump has suggested greater military involvement in border security in the past.
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that he would dispatch US troops to the US-Mexico border.
“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,” Trump said during lunch with leaders from the Baltic states, according to CNN.
“I spoke with Gen. 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.
“We will be doing things with Mexico, and they have to do it,” Trump said. “Otherwise I’m not going to do the NAFTA deal.”
Trump also blamed former President Barack Obama for immigration issues and problems at the border.
“We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court,” he added, referring to “catch and release” immigration policies.
Trump in the past several days has commented multiple times about an annual “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants who started a trip from the southwest corner of Mexico aiming to reach the US border, where many would seek asylum.
Trump has inveighed against the group, against what he perceives as Mexico’s failure to stop it, and against what he sees as weak US immigration policy that has led to such migration. Mexican immigration officials moved to break up the group on Monday, but Trump again commented on the caravan’s movement on Tuesday.
“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic … it’s like we have no border,” Trump said on Tuesday. “They did it because you really have to do it,” he added, referring to Mexico’s decision to halt the movement.
“The caravan doesn’t irritate me,” Trump said. “The caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States.”
“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he said.
US military personnel have been deployed to the border before. George W. Bush send National Guard troops to carry out patrols from 2006 to 2008 as part of Operation Jump Start to help secure the frontier. In 2012, Obama sent Army personnel to Arizona and Texas as part of a joint operation between US Northern Command and US Customs and Border Patrol.
- Reuters/Henry Romero
It is not immediately clear how many troops Trump would send to the border or what authority they would have, if they are sent at all.
A Pentagon official was not immediately available to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.
Trump has mentioned the military in discussions of border security and immigration enforcement before.
In February of last year, Trump described the removal of authorized immigration by his administration as “a military operation,” a comment that contrasted with other officials in his administration, who stressed that deportations would not be pursued en masse or in the style of a military operation. Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, later said Trump was using the term “as an adjective.”
Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and John Kelly, then Homeland Security secretary, told Mexican officials the US military wound not get involved in enforcing immigration policy.
In late March, Trump floated the idea of redirecting funds from the defense budget toward funding the wall he has promised to build on the frontier. The project is under the purview of the Homeland Security Department.
The Pentagon said Trump had discussed the matter with Mattis, but both Pentagon and congressional officials said it would take an act of Congress to shift those funds. During a trip to Mexico in September, Mattis highlighted the US and Mexico’s close cooperation and mutual concerns, and, when asked about the border wall, said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.