Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
As a caravan of thousands of Central American migrants makes its way from Honduras through Mexico toward the U.S. border, President Donald Trump vowed Tuesday that the group will be stopped.
“I’m not letting them in,” he said during a bill signing in the Oval Office. “We’re going to do whatever we have to. They’re not getting in.”
The president also reiterated his claim that Middle Easterners who could pose a danger to U.S. residents have infiltrated the group.
“There could very well be. I have very good information,” he said, though he also said, “There’s no proof of anything.”
During a background briefing call Tuesday on immigration numbers for fiscal 2018, senior administration officials said a record was set in September, when 16,658 “family units” from Central America were apprehended by Border Patrol agents.
The total number of families who arrived at the border during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was 107,212.
The Trump administration blames “Democrat catch-and-release loopholes” exploited by human smugglers and “radical left-wing” advocates for driving migration from Central America.
America’s Voice, a nonprofit immigrant advocacy organization, accused the administration of using fear and lies to whip up a “race-baiting frenzy” over border security ahead of the midterm elections.
“Republicans control the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court, yet Trump is blaming Democrats,” America’s Voice said in a statement released Tuesday.
“In fact, over the past two years, Trump and his immigration adviser Stephen Miller made sure to blow up every serious effort to enact bipartisan immigration legislation.”
At campaign rallies stumping for fellow Republicans, the president has repeated his call for a border wall.
He also has warned that if the migrant caravan from Honduras makes it to the U.S. border, “We’ll call up our military if we have to.”
‘I had to flee the gangs’
The Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which includes all of New Mexico, apprehended 12,312 families from Central America in fiscal 2018, a 43 percent increase over the previous year.
Churches in Las Cruces and El Paso have donated space to house some of the migrant families that have arrived during the recent spike in migration.
But the need for space, volunteers and donations continues to grow, along with the number of families.
“I had to flee the gangs,” said a 37-year-old mother who left Honduras with her 8-year-old son.
She was among a group of about 40 parents with kids who were spending Friday night at a temporary migrant shelter set up on the campus of a private Catholic school in El Paso.
“I was terrified, a prisoner in my own home,” said the woman, who is seeking asylum in the U.S. She said she witnessed gangs hiding stolen property in a house across the street and faced death threats.
The mother and son spent eight days in Border Patrol custody before they were released. She is wearing an electronic ankle tracking device while her case moves through immigration court.
A senior administration official on Tuesday called the U.S. asylum system “the world’s largest immigration loophole.”
“It puts you into a legal system that takes more time to play out than we can detain you for,” the official said.