President Trump said Monday that some of the migrant caravan adults were “grabbers” who’d abducted children for their journey, and said those who come ready to do violence will face more tear gas from U.S. authorities defending the border.
Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters as he campaigned for a Republican senator’s re-election in Mississippi, again said he’s prepared to close the border “for a long time” if migrants continue to charge the boundary, attempting to exploit breaches to enter the U.S.
And the president defended the Border Patrol’s use of tear gas on Sunday to disperse migrants who mobbed the border and broke through a fence, saying the gas used was a “very minor form.”
“It’s very safe,” he said.
Images of women and children choking under clouds of gas spread Sunday, drawing rebukes from immigrant-rights advocates, congressional Democrats and Central American leaders defending their citizens who fled their countries because of violence and poverty.
But border officials say most of those attempting to breach the border were adult men.
And Mr. Trump questioned the motives of people who would bring children into that environment in the first place.
“In some cases, you know, they’re not the parents,” he said. “These are people, they call em grabbers. They grab a child because they think they’ll have a certain status by having a child. You know, you have certain advantages in terms of our crazy laws that frankly Congress should be changing.”
The Washington Times has reported on the phenomenon of adults abducting children as they journey north.Those migrants are hoping to take advantage of more relaxed treatment for illegal immigrant families, who thanks to a 2015 court ruling are generally quickly released after they are caught, giving them a chance to disappear into the shadows. Adults without children, meanwhile, are more likely to be held.
The Obama administration had told the courts that the new ruling would result in more abductions, but the judges disagreed.
The numbers, though, suggest the Obama officials were prescient.
Earlier this year numbers obtained by The Times showed a 900 percent increase in reported abductions compared to a year earlier.
Many of the migrants in the caravan say they plan to ask for asylum in the U.S. — though they bypassed opportunities to make that claim in Mexico, which is considered a safe third country for people from Central America.
Historically, only about 10 percent of people in their circumstances will qualify for asylum under a judge’s ruling, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said.
Mr. Trump, who has tried to clamp down on bogus asylum claims, said Monday he doesn’t oppose the asylum system altogether, saying “at a certain level” people should be allowed to apply.
But he said there was an incongruity between migrants complaining about their home countries yet waving those countries’ flags as they journey on the caravan.
“And you say well, If these countries are so bad, so dangerous why are they all waving proudly their flags?” he said.
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