Trump misses mark on state of Mexico border: But Promises

Trump misses mark on state of Mexico border: But Promises Tough Security Measures

Associated Press ELLIOT SPAGAT, et al. report

In his threat, Tuesday, April 3, 2018, to use the military on the U.S.-Mexico border until his promised wall is built, Trump again heaped blame on his predecessor, Barack Obama, and congressional Democrats for creating a dangerous and dysfunctional border. He vowed to use the military on the U.S.-Mexico border until his coveted wall is built.

Here’s a look at some of Trump’s latest claims on the state of the border, including a caravan of Central Americans crossing Mexico, and how they stack up with the facts:

TRUMP: “President Obama made changes that basically created no border. It’s called catch and release. And we can’t do anything about it because the laws that were created by Democrats are so pathetic and so weak.”

THE FACTS: Wrong on several fronts.

In decrying what it calls “catch-and-release” policies, the White House cites a 2008 law that gave new protections to children who cross the border alone from countries other than Mexico or Canada. But the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act passed both houses of Congress unanimously with Republican President George W. Bush’s enthusiastic support.

The administration also points to a settlement of a class-action lawsuit in 1997 that established standards for detention, treatment and release of children who cross the border alone. Those protections have been extended by federal judges several times. Over objections from the Obama administration, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles ruled that the settlement applies to children who come with their parents, as well as those who come alone.

Obama’s budget proposals for U.S. Customs and Border Protection grew 22 percent during his eight years in office to nearly $14 billion in his last year. The Border Patrol effectively ended its practice of turning Mexicans around without serious consequences, turning more often to formal removal orders in fast-track deportation proceedings or criminal charges.

Overall, Border Patrol arrests dropped during Obama’s tenure, despite surges in his second term. U.S. authorities were overwhelmed by unaccompanied children arriving at the border in 2014, predominantly fleeing violence and economic conditions in Central America, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

TRUMP: “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. We’ll see what happens.”

 

THE FACTS: Nothing is being broken up in Mexico. The caravan of largely Central American migrants never intended to reach the U.S. border, according to organizer Irineo Mujica. The caravan was meant to end at a migrant’s right symposium in central Mexico later this week.

The caravan stopped to camp at a sports field in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca over the weekend, not because it was forced to by Mexican officials, but because it was a convenient place with welcoming local authorities and there were no logistics to take the estimated 1,150 people any further. On Tuesday, they waited to see how they can get to the central state of Puebla, perhaps by buses. Life goes on normally at the camp, with people heating simple meals over fires and sleeping under the stars.

All that Mexican immigration officers were doing at the camp was taking people’s names, to sign them up for temporary transit visas, which would allow them to travel to the U.S. border, possibly to seek asylum in the U.S., or to seek asylum status in Mexico.

TRUMP: “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly not very much before,” referring to deployment of U.S. military to the border.

THE FACTS: Sending troops to the border has been done for years, and at least one member of Trump’s own Cabinet has done it. In the summer of 2014, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now serving as Trump’s energy secretary, ordered the deployment of 1,000 Texas National Guardsmen to the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest region for illegal border crossings. Perry gave the order in response to a sharp rise in the numbers of Central American children crossing the border alone.

About 100 of those Guardsmen remain on the border, Texas National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Travis Walters said Tuesday.

In 2006, under Operation Jump Start, 6,000 troops were sent to the border to increase security and surveillance. The operation used the National Guard to assist the Border Patrol with non-law enforcement duties while additional border agents were hired and trained. The number declined during the second year to about 3,000. Over the two years, about 29,000 National Guard forces participated in the missions, as forces rotated in and out.

In a related development, President Donald Trump pledged “strong action today” on immigration, a day after he said he wants to use the military to secure the U.S.-Mexico border until his “big, beautiful wall” is erected.

In an early-morning tweet Wednesday, Trump said “Our Border Laws are very weak” and said Democrats “stand in our way” of new laws. He added “We will be taking strong action today.” Trump did not offer further details and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he’s been discussing the idea of using the military at the border 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 U.S., 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 frustrated by slow action on building a wall along the Mexican border. He’s previously suggested using the Pentagon’s budget to pay for 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 Tuesday 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 like 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 U.S.-Mexico border in 2010 to beef up efforts against drug smuggling and illegal immigration. Texas also deployed military forces to its 800-mile (1,290-kilometer) border with Mexico. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now 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.

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.

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 appeared to claim 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 U.S. 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 U.S. border, possibly to seek asylum, or to seek asylum status in Mexico.

 

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