After days of expressing frustration over his stalled border wall project, including an Easter Sunday tweetstorm about immigration, President Trump said Tuesday that his administration is “preparing for the military to secure our border.”
“First of all the border, the Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws. We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States, and we’re going to be able to do something about that hopefully soon,” Trump said at a White House news conference with Baltic leaders. “Hopefully Congress will get their act together and get in and create some very powerful laws, like Mexico has, and like Canada has, and like almost all countries have.”
“We don’t have laws. We have catch and release. You catch and then you immediately release, and people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back,” he continued, adding of his desire to call the military to the southern border, “We have a meeting on it in a little while with General Mattis and everybody. And I think that it’s something we have to do.”
The White House released a statement later in the evening explaining that last week Trump “received a briefing from senior administration officials on the growing influx of illegal immigration, drugs and violent gang members from Central America, and directed a vigorous administrative strategy to confront this threat and protect America’s national security.”
“Today, he received a follow up briefing to discuss his administration’s strategy, which includes the mobilization of the National Guard,” the statement added. “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 organizations.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and other senior White House officials were in on the meeting.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray tweeted that Mexico has requested the U.S. “clarify” Trump’s announcement on using the military at the border. “The Government of Mexico will define posture according to this clarification, and always in defense of our sovereignty and national interest,” he added.
Previous presidents have called up the National Guard to assist with border security. President George W. Bush initially sent 6,000 troops to help the Border Patrol in a support capacity, while President Obama sent 1,200 National Guard to the border in 2010 to help combat drug and human smuggling.
Trump has been tweetstorming about the border wall since signing the omnibus package before Congress left for spring break. The president had sought $25 billion over 10 years to start construction on one of his border wall prototypes, but the spending agreement passed by lawmakers included $1.6 billion for new fencing, repairs to existing fencing and enforcement technology while stipulating funds could not go to a concrete wall. He reportedly suggested using part of the military budget to pay for the wall, but that budget amendment would have to be approved by Congress.
“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!” he tweeted on Easter. “Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!”
The “caravan” is a reference to a group of hundreds of Central American migrants who were moving up through Mexico together, as has happened yearly since 2010. They were stopped in the state of Oaxaca and were being vetted for legal status by Mexican authorities. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry later confirmed the migrants were being processed and said the caravan’s “decision not to continue was made solely by the members of the caravan and was not due to any external or domestic pressure.”
“The Mexican government reiterates that its immigration policy is a sovereign issue implemented according to law through which it seeks to ensure legal, safe and orderly migration with full respect for people’s rights,” the Foreign Ministry added.
“These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!” Trump also tweeted. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, though, applied to children brought to the country illegally before June 15, 2007. Trump discontinued DACA in September, giving Congress a deadline that has since passed to find a legislative solution, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been accepting only renewals as challenges to the order rescinding DACA move through the legal system.