A Border Patrol agent walks near the secondary fence separating Tijuana, Mexico, background, and San Diego in San Diego. | Gregory Bull/AP Photo
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he intended to deploy troops along the U.S.-Mexico border until a wall was built there, proposing an escalation of efforts to prevent people from entering the country illegally via the southern border.
The move would ramp up Trump’s battle over immigration, after he has run into hurdles carrying out his campaign-trail promise to build a wall at Mexico’s expense. Most recently, he has been preoccupied by a group of migrants, mostly from Honduras, making their way north through Mexico toward the U.S.
“We are going to be guarding our border with our military. That’s a big step,” Trump said on Tuesday during a session at the White House with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. “We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing and, by the way, never showing up for court.”
Later on Tuesday at a news conference with the three Baltic leaders, Trump said he would have a meeting on the deployment “in a little while” with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was at the earlier meeting. The president offered little else in the way of details on what shape his plan to put U.S. soldiers on the nation’s southern border might take.
“The Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws,” he said. “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. We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States. 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.”
A senior official at the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday that putting troops on the U.S.-Mexico border had been under discussion but that no rollout had been planned because of unresolved policy issues. The official said Mattis did not want armed troops at the border.
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