Bill Colvin and Lolita C. Baldor / Associated Press & Daniella Diaz and Veronica Stracqualursi / CNN – 2018-04-03 23:56:54
Impatient for Wall,
Trump Wants US Military to Secure Border
Bill Colvin and Lolita C. Baldor / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (April 3, 2018) — Frustrated by slow action on a major campaign promise, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants to use the military to secure the US-Mexico border until his promised border wall is built.
Trump told reporters he’s been discussing the idea with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“We’re going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” Trump said, calling the move a “big step.”
It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how the proposal would work or what kind of troops Trump wanted to deploy. But the White House later said Trump wanted to mobilize the National Guard.
Federal law prohibits the use of active-duty service members for law enforcement inside the US, unless specifically authorized by Congress. But over the past 12 years, presidents have twice sent National Guard troops to the border to bolster security and assist with surveillance and other support. The White House counsel’s office has been working on the idea for several weeks, according to a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans.
Trump has been annoyed by the lack of progress on building what was the signature promise of his campaign: a “big, beautiful wall” along the Mexican border. He’s previously suggested using the Pentagon’s budget to pay for building the wall, arguing it is a national security priority, despite strict rules that prohibit spending that’s not authorized by Congress.
At the Pentagon, officials struggled throughout the day to answer questions about the plan, including rudimentary details on whether it would involve National Guard members.
But the administration appeared to be considering a model similar to a 2006 operation in which President George W. Bush deployed National Guard troops to the southern border.
Under Operation Jump Start, 6,000 National Guard troops were sent to assist the border patrol with non-law enforcement duties while additional border agents were hired and trained. Over two years, about 29,000 National Guard forces participated, as forces rotated in and out. The Guard members were used for surveillance, communications, administrative support, intelligence, analysis and the installation of border security infrastructure.
In addition, President Barack Obama sent about 1,200 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border in 2010 to beef up efforts to battle drug smuggling and illegal immigration.
Texas has also deployed military forces to its 800-mile (1,290-kilometer) border with Mexico. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now serving as Trump’s energy secretary, sent 1,000 Texas National Guardsmen to the Rio Grande Valley in 2014 in response to a sharp increase in Central American children crossing the border alone.
Trump met Tuesday with top administration officials, including Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to discuss the administration’s strategy to address what White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders described as “the growing influx of illegal immigration, drugs and violent gang members from Central America.”
In addition to mobilizing the National Guard, Trump and senior officials “agreed on the need to pressure Congress to urgently pass legislation to close legal loopholes exploited by criminal trafficking, narco-terrorist and smuggling organizations,” Sanders said.
The meeting and comments came amid a flurry of tweets by the president on the subject over the last several days.
Trump has been fixated on the issue since he grudgingly signed a spending bill last month that includes far less money for the wall than he’d hoped for.
The $1.3 trillion package included $1.6 billion for border wall spending — a fraction of the $25 billion Trump made a last-minute push to secure. And much of that money can be used only to repair existing segments, not to build new sections.
Also setting Trump off: A briefing from senior administration officials last week that included an update on an uptick in illegal border crossings, and images played on his favorite network, Fox News, of a “caravan” of migrants making their way through Mexico.
Trump spent the first months of his presidency bragging about a dramatic drop in illegal border crossings. Indeed, the 2017 fiscal year marked a 45-year low for Border Patrol arrests. But the numbers have been slowly ticking up since last April and are now on par with many months of the Obama administration. Statistics show 36,695 arrests of people trying to cross the southwest border in February 2018, up from 23,555 in the same month of the previous year.
At last week’s meeting, Trump “directed a vigorous administrative strategy to confront this threat and protect America’s national security,” said Sanders. Tuesday’s briefing was a follow-up to discuss the plans.
Trump has also been under pressure from conservative backers, including commentator Ann Coulter, who has accused Trump of betraying his base for not delivering on the wall.
Trump appeared to take credit Tuesday for halting a caravan of about 1,100 migrants, many from Honduras, who had been marching along roadsides and train tracks in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
“I said (to Mexican officials), ‘I hope you’re going to tell that caravan not to get up to the border.’ And I think they’re doing that because, as of 12 minutes ago, it was all being broken up,” he said.
But the caravan of largely Central American migrants had never intended to reach the US border, according to organizer Irineo Mujica. It was meant to end at a migrants’ rights symposium in central Mexico later this week.
The caravan stopped to camp at a sports field in Oaxaca over the weekend. Mexican immigration officers have been signing them up for temporary transit visas, which would allow them to travel to the US border, possibly to seek asylum, or to seek asylum status in Mexico.
Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego; Mark Sherman, Catherine Lucey, Darlene Superville and Kevin Freking in Washington; Nomaan Merchant in Houston; and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.
Some Lawmakers Don’t Want
Military Involved with the Border Wall
Daniella Diaz and Veronica Stracqualursi / CNN
WASHINGTON (April 3, 2018) — Even though the President said he wants to involve the military with guarding the US southern border, some lawmakers in Congress are arguing it shouldn’t be part of their job description.
Rep. Francis Rooney, a Florida Republican, told CNN Tuesday he doesn’t feel comfortable with military on the border.
“I don’t really feel comfortable with deploying military troops and creating the possibility for an increase in violence and an escalation of the conflict,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “These people should be stopped at the border and vetted out, just the normal process, and we should have plenty of agents down there to do that.”
Rooney was responding to President Donald Trump’s comments earlier today, when he said he’s calling on the military to guard the US-Mexico border until his long-promised border wall is complete.
“I told Mexico, and I respect what they did, I said, look, your laws are very powerful, your laws are very strong. We have very bad laws for our border and we are going to be doing some things, I spoke with (Defense Secretary James) Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” he said during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic states.
He continued: “We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court.”
Asked to clarify his comments during a joint news conference, Trump said he is “preparing for the military to secure our border” and he would be attending a meeting on the topic of border security with Mattis and others “in a little while.”
Democrats responded to Trump’s remarks by saying he is using resources he shouldn’t to accomplish what he wants. Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, who is on the House Judiciary Committee, tweeted his opposition to Trump, writing the President needs to put the military first.
“So, @realDonaldTrump, you want our military to build your wall? Why don’t you first visit them in a war zone (you haven’t), take care of their health care (you don’t), & give them a job when they enter civilian life (you have no plan). Put them first, not yourself,” he tweeted Tuesday.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, slammed Trump for wanting to use the military and waste “time, resources and money.”
“.@realDonaldTrump wants to use our troops to advance his extreme anti-immigrant agenda, while wasting time, resources & money and depleting our military strength in areas of real danger. Congress must stop this misguided scheme,” he tweeted, along with a screenshot of a statement.
And Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii argued the military is busy enough and shouldn’t have to also protect the border.
“Our military has more important things to do than to be mobilized to fulfill a politicians campaign promise,” he tweeted. “Also, spending money on a wall or guarding a wall would require a new law, which would fail spectacularly in the Senate.”
Trump has privately floated the idea of funding construction of a border wall with Mexico through the US military budget in conversations with advisers, two sources confirmed to CNN last week.
In response to that report, Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, tweeted he wrote to Mattis with Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island saying Trump has no legal authority to do that.
Trump’s Tuesday comments come after multiple days of hard-line immigration rhetoric from the White House, with him calling on Congress to pass strict border laws in a series of tweets beginning Sunday.
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