SAN ANTONIO, April 10 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would have to mobilize more of the military at the U.S. border with Mexico after listening to stories about migrants crossing the border from people attending a Republican fundraiser.
“I’m going to have to call up more military,” Trump said.
The president said some of the people crossing the border were ending up dead from the journey on Americans’ ranches. He interrupted his discussion with Republican donors to bring in reporters to listen to the stories about the border.
“Many, many dead people,” Trump said, referring to migrants who he said had died after making the journey. “Also they come in and raid their houses, and it’s very dangerous,” Trump said, referring to locals affected by the influx of migrants.
There are currently about 5,000 active-duty and National Guard troops near the border, though that number fluctuates.
Honduran migrant Joel Mendez, 22, passes his eight-month-old son Daniel through a hole under the U.S. border wall to his partner, Yesenia Martinez, 24, who had already crossed in Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Moments later Martinez surrendered to waiting border guards while Mendez stayed behind in Tijuana to work, saying he feared he’d be deported if he crossed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran migrant Joel Mendez, 22, feeds his eight-month-old son Daniel as his partner Yesenia Martinez, 24, crawls through a hole under the U.S. border wall, in Tijuana, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. Moments later Martinez surrendered to waiting border guards while Mendez stayed behind in Tijuana to work, saying he feared he’d be deported if he crossed. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Honduran migrant Leivi Ortega, 22, wearing a rosary, looks at her phone while she, her partner and their young daughter, wait in hopes of finding an opportunity to cross the U.S. border from Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. In early December, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that the San Diego sector experienced a “slight uptick” in families entering the U.S. illegally with the goal of seeking asylum. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
In a photo taken from the Tijuana, Mexico, side of the border wall, a guard on the U.S. side, at left, watches Honduran migrants jump the wall into the United States, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Thousands of migrants who traveled via caravan are seeking asylum in the U.S., but face a decision between waiting months or crossing illegally, because the U.S. government only processes a limited number of cases a day at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
“We support our federal partners,” Pentagon spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis said when asked about Trump’s comments.
Trump in February had deployed an additional 3,750 U.S. troops to the country’s southwestern border to support Customs and Border Protection agents.
Later that month, Democratic governors of states including Wisconsin, New Mexico and California withdrew their National Guard troops, saying there was not enough evidence of a security crisis to justify keeping them there.
Trump, who drew sharp criticism for saying during the 2016 presidential campaign that Mexico was sending rapists and drug runners to the United States, said on Wednesday that those comments were tame compared to the stories he had heard since.
The president has made immigration a signature issue of his presidency and of his re-election campaign. He declared a national emergency over the issue earlier this year in an effort to redirect funding from Congress to build a wall along the U.S. southern border.
Earlier this week he announced that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was stepping down. White House officials said he wanted new leadership at the department to focus more closely on what he has called a border crisis. (Reporting by Jeff Mason. Additional reporting by Idrees Ali; writing by Meredith Mazzilli; editing by Jonathan Oatis)