The Trump administration is still deciding how it will respond if a Central American migrant caravan arrives at the sourthern US border, despite President Trump's threats to deploy the military and declare a state of emergency, reports AP via CNBC. Trump has also threatened to retract aid from the caravan participants' countries of origin.
Top immigration officials and close Trump advisers are still evaluating the options in closed-door meetings that have gotten increasingly heated in the past week, including one that turned into a shouting match as the caravan of about 7,000 people pushes north, according to administration officials and others with knowledge of the issue. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the topic. -CNBC
Some of Trump's inner circle, such as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen have advocated for a more diplomatic approach - leveraging relationships with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and the United Nations to halt the group's advance.
Others have advocated for more immediate options - including declaring a state of emergency in order to provide the administration with a wide range of options over how to manage the caravan, including rescinding aid and forcing arriving families to choose months in detention with their children or releasing them into government shelters until a relative or guardian can take them.
President Trump has advocated for much of the latter approach - calling the caravan a national emergency, threatening to deploy troops, and pulling aid.
"They're not coming in. We're going to do whatever we have to, they're not coming in," Trump said on Tuesday.
Tensions reached a fevered pitch in the White House earlier in the day, with Nielsen sugesting going to the UN Committee on Human Rights while in a meeting with White House chief of staff John Kelly.
National Security adviser John Bolton - a longtime UN critic, melted down over the idea, according to AP's sources. Neilson reportedly shot back that Bolton - who infrequently attends immigration meetings, was not an expert on the topic.
Later Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders performed damage control, stating: "While we are passionate about solving the issue of illegal immigration, we are not angry at one another. However, we are furious at the failure of Congressional Democrats to help us address this growing crisis."
Meanwhile, administration officials sounded off Tuesday on an increase in families coming across the border, mostly from Central America. Nearly a third of all people apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border during the budget year 2018 were families and children — about 157,248 out of 395,579 total apprehensions.
Coupled with the caravan, Trump administration officials have said it's a full-on crisis. They say loopholes in laws have allowed for a worsening border crisis where the vast majority of people coming illegally to the U.S. cannot be easily returned home. -CNBC
In a Tuesday letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) recommended that the Trump administration draft a "third party" agreement with Mexico which would force asylum seekers to do so in Mexico. The lawmakers said this is exactly how things are done in Europe.
Meanwhile, the National Guard currently has around 2,100 mostly unarmed troops patrolling the US-Mexico border.
In April, when a similar caravan was making their way north, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authorized up to 4,000 troops to patrol the border pending the approval of state governors.
DoD has not received a request from the White House for additional forces beyond the 4,000, a defense official said.
Almost all of the 2,100 Guard forces already dispatched to the border were sent by four states: Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona; with Texas supplying about 1,000 of the total Guard presence.
The 1,000 Texas Army National Guardsmen dispatched are not armed, said spokesman Maj. Joshua G. Amstutz. The forces are not in law enforcement roles, they are back-filling key roles such as running motor pools, so most Customs and Border Protection Agents can be working the border.
Those support roles include “aerial detection, maintaining and repairing vehicles, and providing logistical support so that the Border Patrol is able to get badges back on the border to enforce the law,” Amstutz said. -Military Times
Trump has considered using the military to construct his long-promised wall between Texas and Mexico, adding to the existing portions of border wall along the Texas-Mexico border. The Department of Defense has also said that it's looking to bolster defenses on US training territory - possibly reinforcing existing barriers in place along more than 20 miles of military lands at the Barry M. Goldwater Training Range in Arizona.