Trump says he wants military to help at U.S.-Mexico border
'We're going to be doing things militarily until we can have a wall and proper security,' president says
U.S. President Donald Trump says he wants to use the military to secure the U.S.-Mexico border until his promised wall is built.
Trump said during a lunch with Baltic leaders that he's spoken with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis about the idea.
"We're going to be doing things militarily until we can have a wall and proper security," the president said
He called it a "big step."
Trump begrudgingly signed a spending bill last month that provided far less money for the wall than he wanted.
He's been complaining that U.S. borders are too porous and its immigration laws too weak.
Meanwhile, the caravan of Central American migrants that angered Trump was sidelined at a sports field in southern Mexico with no means of reaching the border even as Trump tweeted another threat to Mexico Tuesday.
"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 wrote. "Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen."
The caravan that once numbered 1,150 or more people actually halted days ago in the town of Matias Romero in the southern state of Oaxaca, where participants slept out in the open. After days of walking 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 later this week.
Bogged down by logistical problems, large numbers of children and fears about people getting sick, the caravan was always meant to draw attention to the plight of migrants and was never equipped to make it all the way to the U.S. border.
"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, director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the activist group behind the annual symbolic event.
"We have never seen a march of this size. It is unmanageable," Mujica said.
On Monday, Mexican immigration 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." He said the group was waiting for the migration officers to return.
About 150 men already did break off from the march Sunday, hopping a freight train north, probably with hopes of trying to enter the U.S.
The "Stations of the Cross" caravans have been held annually in southern Mexico for about 10 years. They began as short processions of migrants, some dressed in biblical garb and carrying crosses, as an Easter-season protest against the kidnappings, extortion, beatings and killings suffered by many Central American migrants as they cross Mexico.
The organized portions of the caravans usually have not gone much farther north than the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.
Mexico says some already sent home
This year's event seems to have gotten more notice in the U.S., and Trump has sent some angry tweets that raised hackles in Mexico, which in recent years has detained and deported hundreds of thousands of Central American migrants before they could reach the U.S. border.
In a statement late Monday, Mexico's government said about 400 participants in 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.
The department also said that unlike in previous yearly caravans, "this time Mexican immigration authorities have offered refugee status" to participants who qualify. But it suggested it is not up to Mexico to keep people from going to the U.S. to apply for asylum.
"It is not this government's responsibility to make immigration decisions for the United States or any other country, so it will be up to the appropriate authorities of the United States to decide whether to authorize the entry of the caravan participants to U.S. territory," the statement said.
Mexico routinely stops and deports Central Americans, sometimes in numbers that rival those of the United States. Deportations of foreigners dropped from 176,726 in 2015 to 76,433 in 2017, in part because fewer were believed to have come to Mexico, and more were requesting asylum in Mexico.
Mexico granted 3,223 asylum requests made in 2016, and 9,626 requests filed last year are either under review or have been accepted.
Deportations continued at about the same pace in the first two months of 2018, with 15,835 people returned to central American countries.