Trump pledges strong action on immigration

He plans to mobilise military and National Guard to protect US' border with Mexico

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump said yesterday his administration would "be taking strong action" on immigration, but gave no details about any planned steps.

Mr Trump's statement, made in an early morning post on Twitter, comes one day after the President said he would utilise the military to protect the United States' southern border with Mexico.

Senior Trump administration officials have also said legislation aimed at speeding up the deportations of some illegal immigrants was being drafted but have not said when the proposed Bill would be submitted to Congress.

The President's strategy for the US-Mexico border includes mobilising the National Guard, the White House said on Tuesday, after Mr Trump had earlier spoken publicly to reporters about "guarding our border with the military" to stop illegal immigrants.

The National Guard, part of the US military's reserve forces, has been used in recent years for surveillance and intelligence on the border, but not direct law enforcement.

Mr Trump's earlier remarks sharpened his recurring anti-immigration rhetoric. He said he wanted to deploy US military forces until his long-promised border wall is built.

"Until we can have a wall and proper security we're going to be guarding our border with the military," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House, lamenting what he called "horrible" US laws that left the southern border poorly protected.

Mr Trump also railed against a "caravan" of Latin American migrants travelling from the Mexico-Guatemala border in the last 10 days towards the US, journeys that have occurred annually since 2010 in an effort to draw attention to the plight of people fleeing violence in their countries.

On Tuesday night, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said on Twitter that the caravan had "dispersed gradually and at the decision of its participants".

Mexican officials say privately that they believe Mr Trump has exaggerated the caravan's importance to renew pressure on Mexico over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mr Trump's comments immediately raised questions in Congress and among legal experts about troop deployments on US soil.

The Posse Comitatus Act , a federal law since the 1870s, restricts using the US Army and other main branches of the military for civilian law enforcement on US soil, unless specifically authorised by Congress. But the military can provide support services to law enforcement.

Under president George W. Bush, the National Guard between 2006 and 2008 provided border-related intelligence analysis. In 2010, president Barack Obama sent National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to US Border Patrol agents.

Some specific statutes authorise the president to deploy troops within the US for riot control or relief efforts after natural disasters.

Mr Geronimo Gutierrez, Mexico's ambassador in Washington, said he had spoken to US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about Mr Trump's remarks on the border and that Mexico had formally asked the US government to clarify them.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2018, with the headline 'Trump pledges strong action on immigration'. Print Edition | Subscribe