President Trump on Tuesday said US military forces will take over security operations along the Mexican border after slamming American laws and bitterly complaining about the lack of progress on his long-promised border wall with Mexico.
“We have very bad laws for our border, and we are going to be doing some things. I’ve been speaking with [Defense Secretary] Gen. Mattis. We’ll be doing things militarily,” Trump told reporters during a working lunch at the White House with Baltic leaders.
“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’ll be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step. We really haven’t done that before, or certainly not very much before,” he continued.
“We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way, never showing up for court,” Trump said as he repeated his attack on the so-called “caravan” of immigrants from Honduras inching its way to the US to seek asylum.
He also blamed ex-President Obama and Congressional Democrats for what he said were weak immigration laws.
“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he said, citing “catch-and-release” policies.
A top Honduran official on Tuesday rejected Trump’s threat to cut US foreign aid unless the caravan is blocked.
“We don’t know what President Trump is talking about when he says that Honduras doesn’t do anything” to stop illegal immigration, said presidential spokesman Ebal Diaz, according to Reuters.
“I think he is not well informed, I think he is unfairly using Honduras in a political debate he has with the US Congress,” Diaz said, adding that Honduras deserved respect.
Meanwhile, in a statement late Monday, the Mexican government said about 400 members of the caravan had already been sent back to their home countries.
“Under no circumstances does the Mexican government promote irregular migration,” the Interior Ministry statement said, adding that unlike in previous yearly caravans, “this time Mexican immigration authorities have offered refugee status” to participants who qualify.
The caravan, which once included about 1,150 migrants, also has been sidelined for several days at a sports stadium in the southern state of Oaxaca.
After days of trekking along roadsides and train tracks, the organizers now plan to try to get buses to take participants to the final event, an immigrants’ rights conference in the central state of Puebla.
“The idea was never for this group of people to reach the border. It was more to achieve a sensible and clear solution” to migrants’ need to leave their countries, said Irineo Mujica, head of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders, the group behind the annual event.
Aida Raquel Perez Rivera, 31, from crime-ridden San Pedro Sula in Honduras, was sitting on a rolled blanket in the town of Matias Romero, where she still hoped to reach the US.
“I have been threatened with death and I had to leave my daughters back there,” she said. “I left without money, without anything, just the clothes on my back.”
On Monday, Mexican officials began taking the names of people interested in filing for asylum, or temporary transit or humanitarian visas in Mexico.
But Mujica said he didn’t know “if that was just to calm down Donald Trump’s tweets, or calm down Donald Trump.”
The president fired off several tweets on Tuesday about the caravan march toward the “Weak Laws” border of Mexico.
“The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our ‘Weak Laws’ Border, had better be stopped before it gets there,” Trump tweeted in a familiar refrain from his Easter weekend tirade.
“Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!” he continued.
Trump launched his most recent attack on immigration on Monday morning by a referencing a report on Fox News about the caravan and urged Congress to pass legislation to bolster border security.
Despite the president’s attack, Pueblo Sin Fronteras hopes the publicity will help the cause.
“We’re a little bit scared but at the same time we’re a little bit happy because we got his attention,” Josael Romero, one of the group’s organizers, told The Hill in an email.
Trump also declared dead the Obama-era policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that protects from deportation immigrants brought to the US illegally as children by their parents.
DACA, which Trump ordered phased out in September, only protects immigrants brought to the United States before 2007.
With Post Wires