President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on April 3, 2018, that he would dispatch US troops to the US-Mexico border.
“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said, according to Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart. “That’s a big step.”
Trump said he had spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about “guarding our border with the military … until we have a wall,” according to David Nakamura of The Washington Post. “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly so much before.”
Trump’s comments come after several days of comments about an annual “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants started a trip from the southwest corner of Mexico aiming to reach the US border, where many would seek asylum.
Trump inveighed against the group, against what he perceived as Mexico’s failure to stop them, 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 April 2, 2018, but Trump again commented on the caravan’s movement on April 3, 2018.
“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic … it’s like we have no border,” Trump said on April 3, 2018. “They did it because you really have to do it,” he added, referring to Mexico’s decision to halt the movement.
(Photo by Sgt. Jim Greenhill)
“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.
Trump has reference the military in discussions of border security and immigration enforcement before.
A few weeks after taking office, 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 clarified that Trump was using the term “as an adjective.”
In late March 2018, 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 currently under the purview of the Homeland Security Department.
The Pentagon said Trump had discussed the matter with Mattis, however Pentagon and Congressional officials both said it would take an act of Congress to shift those funds. During a trip to Mexico in September 2017, 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.
A Pentagon official was not immediately available to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.