Trump: We’ll send in the military

Mexican standoff defused as ‘caravan’ of migrants no longer headed for border

President Donald Trump Picture: Reuters
President Donald Trump Picture: Reuters

United States President Donald Trump vowed early yesterday to deploy the military to secure the southern border of America, as a caravan of Central American migrants headed north through Mexico towards the country.

The US leader has spent three days attacking the Mexican government for failing to block the estimated 1 500 people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras from walking north towards the border.

However, late yesterday, organisers said the caravan had decided not to travel to the US border.

“We will wrap up our work in Mexico City,” Irineo Mujica, the head of the migrant advocacy group People Without Borders, said.

“We have support teams at the border if there are people who need assistance there, but they would have to travel on their own,” he said in the town of Matias Romero, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

The caravan now plans to travel to the central city of Puebla for a conference, then on to Mexico City for a series of demonstrations -- and end its journey there.

Trump had earlier said: “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military.”

In a statement, the White House clarified that Trump’s plan involved mobilising the National Guard – not active duty military troops, which would be barred by US law.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military.”
Donald Trump

Senior officials including Defence Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joseph Dunford and Chief of Staff John Kelly had briefed Trump last week and held follow-up discussions on Tuesday, it said.

“President Trump and senior officials present also agreed on the need to pressure Congress to urgently pass legislation to close legal loopholes exploited by criminal trafficking, narco-terrorist and smuggling organisations,” the statement said.
Trump accused Mexico of abetting and profiting from illegal immigration, which he pledged in his 2016 election campaign to halt.

“The caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States, where you have thousands of people that just decide to walk into our country and we don’t have any laws that could protect it,” he said.

He lashed out at his predecessor Barack Obama for allegedly weakening border security, without elaborating on his claims.

He also railed against the US Congress for not tightening laws on immigrants, and against Democrats for stalling the border wall he promised to build during his campaign.

Trump had previously suggested the military could help fund and build the wall, but it was the first time he proposed US troops to patrol the 3 200km frontier.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment on Trump’s remarks. In the past 12 years, National Guard troops have been deployed twice to bolster border security, but none have been there since 2010.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said he was seeking further information about the announcement.

“Mexico has asked the United States, via official channels, to clarify the announcement by @POTUS on the use of the military on the border,” Videgaray said on Twitter. “The Mexican government will decide its response based on said clarification, and always in defence of our sovereignty and national interest.”

The Trump administration has sharply bolstered spending on patrolling the border, and intensified crackdowns on undocumented immigrants inside the country.

But the president remains frustrated that other initiatives by his administration to slow both legal and illegal immigration have been stalled or blocked. After a year’s delay, Congress budgeted $1.6-billion (R19-billion) last month to begin construction of the wall, a small portion of the $25-billion (R297-billion) Trump requested. -AFP