US President Donald Trump renewed his threat to close the US border with Mexico on Thursday, in an effort to halt the entry of a caravan of migrants from Central America.
If the situation on the border becomes “uncontrollable,” the United States will close entry to the country for an unspecified period of time, Trump told reporters in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is spending the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
“I mean the whole border,” Trump added, adding that the caravan included “many criminals” and “tremendously dangerous people.”
A group of migrants, many of whom say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, have been making their way through Central America towards the US border for several weeks. Many have hopes of claiming asylum.
The largest group of migrants – more than 1,000 people – has arrived in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.
Trump has stepped up border security by ordering several thousand troops to be sent to the southern border of the US to offer logistic support.
Soldiers are putting up barbed wire and barriers along the border and have been given the go-ahead to use lethal force to defend border police if they are attacked.
Defence Secretary James Mattis clarified that border protection authorities have not requested this kind of support and it is not an armed deployment.
Trump, who has made changing US immigration law and tightening border security top goals in his administration, has referred to the caravan as an “invasion.”
He has tried to block asylum applications from anyone entering the US illegally, but a federal judge ruled earlier this week that anyone in the US has the right to apply for asylum, regardless of whether that person legally entered the country at a border crossing or not.
The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has complained that there are significant processing delays at US points of entry on the southern border due to a “long-standing insufficient reception capacity.”