Responding to a massive caravan of illegal immigrants from Central America who are making their way to the U.S., President Trump said Tuesday he will deploy military troops to the southern border.
“We are going to be guarding our border with our military. That’s a big step,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We cannot have people flowing into our country illegally, disappearing, and by the way never showing up for court.”
On Monday, Trump dispatched a Twitter message attacking Mexico for allowing the group of some 1,500 immigrants to march toward the United States.
Trump threatened to retaliate by revoking the U.S.-Mexico free-trade pact NAFTA. He also demanded Congress pass tougher immigration legislation and back his plan for a wall along the Mexican border.
In addition, Trump said he no longer supports a replacement for DACA, the Obama administration program that delayed deportation for more than 700,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
“As ridiculous as it sounds, the laws of our country do not easily allow us to send those crossing our Southern Border back where they came from. A whole big wasted procedure must take place,” Trump tweeted Monday.
“Mexico & Canada have tough immigration laws, whereas ours are an Obama joke. ACT CONGRESS,” the president wrote.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto insisted that despite disagreements over illegal immigration, the NAFTA trade talks should go on.
“We have been conducting serious negotiations,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Nieto expressed hope that “this spirit of positivity, mutual respect and cordiality” will continue.
The caravan has been organized each of the past five years by the organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders, to support migrants who say they are fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua because of poverty and threats from criminal gangs.
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They began their trek March 25 from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas with the aim of reaching the U.S. border and applying for asylum. By Monday caravan had reached the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
In a statement Monday, Mexico’s government described the caravan as “a public demonstration that seeks to draw attention to the migratory phenomenon and the importance of respecting the rights of Central American migrants.”
Mexico said, however, “it is not the responsibility of this government to exercise immigration decisions of the United States or any other nation.”
Reuters reported that some Mexican towns are welcoming the illegal immigrants, offering lodging in town squares and empty warehouses, despite Trump’s call for Mexican authorities to stop them.
The officials have have deployed buses, cars, ambulances and police trucks, but an organizer from Pueblo Sin Fronteras said the help may not be entirely altruistic.
“The authorities want us to leave their cities,” Rodrigo Abeja told Reuters. “They’ve been helping us, in part to speed the massive group out of their jurisdictions.”
In a statement issued March 23, Pueblo sin Fronteras said “Refugee Caravan 2018” is demanding that the U.S. and Mexico “respect our rights as refugees and our right to dignified work to be able to support our families.”
The refugees also demand that the two countries “open the borders because we are as much citizens as the people of the countries where we are and/or travel.”
The statement begins: “We are a group of people from different nations, religions, genders, gender expressions, and sexual orientations migrating and seeking refuge. We seek to to become one collective, supporting each other shoulder to shoulder and demonstrating that by uniting we can abolish borders.”
The group also listed a series of demands of Central American countries, including “an end to political corruption” and “an end to violence against women and the LGBTQIA community.”