President Donald Trump has stated that U.S. troops are prepared to use lethal force at the southern border if it is necessary to defend themselves against Central American migrants trying to illegally enter the U.S.
After speaking to members of the military on Thanksgiving morning, Trump answered questions about the thousands of active-duty American troops being sent to the southern border to deal with the migrant caravan.
“If they have to, they’re going to use lethal force. I’ve given the okay. I hope they don’t have to,” Trump said to reporters.
“But, you know, you’re dealing with a minimum of 500 serious criminals. So I’m going to let the military be taken advantage of. I have no choice. Do I want that to happen? Absolutely not.”
A few days earlier, the Trump administration briefly shut down the busiest port of entry at the U.S. border with Mexico because “it was out of control.”
“I actually — two days ago, we closed the border. We actually just closed it. We’re saying, nobody is coming in, because it was out of control,” Trump said on Thursday. “But you take a look at Tijuana, Mexico, and you see what’s happening there — it’s really a bad situation.”
As reported by CNN, Trump has sent nearly 6,000 U.S. troops to the southern border to reinforce border security. The president believes this is a necessary security measure to take against the thousands of Central American citizens heading to the U.S.
According to the Daily Caller, the caravan’s violent tactics while entering Mexico raised alarm in U.S. officials, with members of the caravan reported to have been planning to overwhelm U.S. ports of entry in order to bypass authorities and enter the states.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Nielsen has made announcements on Twitter about the reinforcements being sent in direct response to threats from those in the caravan.
Unfortunately, some members of the caravan are purposely causing disruptions at our border ports of entry. There is a legal and illegal way to enter the US. We have deployed additional forces to protect our border. We will enforce all our laws.
— Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen (@SecNielsen) November 19, 2018
According to CNN, Trump signed a memo earlier this week allowing U.S. forces to protect Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel from migrants if the migrants employ violence.
As reported by NBC News, the memo states that that “Department of Defense military personnel” may temporarily protect CBP “by protecting their performance of Federal functions.”
“To carry out that mission, these deployed Department of Defense military personnel may perform those military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary to ensure the protection of Federal personnel, including a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search,” the memorandum reportedly reads.
However, Secretary of Defense James Mattis repeatedly said earlier this week that U.S. troops would not use lethal force.
“There has been no call for any lethal force from DHS,” Mattis told reporters Wednesday morning, according to NBC News.
Questioned about whether the troops dispatched to the border are authorized to use lethal force, Mattis responded, “I have the authority. But we are not even employing, you’ve seen the picture of the guys down there not carrying guns, so relax. Don’t worry about it.”
On Thursday, however, President Trump continued to emphasize the need to maintain order in regards to immigration to the U.S.
“What we want to do is we want to have a strong border. We want to have people come into our country,” the president said. “I want to have a lot of people come in. We need them. But they have to come in through merit, and they have to come in legally. They have to come in legally.”
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