President Donald Trump says asylum seekers must go to ports of entry in order to make a claim.
The president's remarks, 5 days before USA voters determine which party will control Congress and state governorships across the country, drew immediate criticism as an effort to generate fear and energize his political base.
"The administration's unprecedented efforts to intimidate with military force all those who come to our border and to undermine the legal process for obtaining asylum are illegal and immoral", said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. He also has said he plans an executive order to unilaterally end the constitutionally protected right of citizenship for children born to non-U.S. citizens.
The president, in an interview with The Washington Times, said he watched the caravans overwhelm Mexican police and troops to break into that country last month, and said he won't allow them to do that here.
Trump made the comments Thursday in a speech on immigration. He deemed the group of migrants from Central America a threat to Americans.
A US Border Patrol agent patrols along a section of the US-Mexico border fence in San Diego, California, July 16, 2018. Trump referred to the movement as an "invasion".
It has been a tumultuous journey so far for the leading caravan, which is now estimated to contain around 4,000 people - down from a peak of more than 7,000.
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Trump alleged that these immigrants were throwing rocks, viciously, and violently.
Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, said this week that "everything that we are doing is in line with and adherence to Posse Comitatus", a congressional act dating back to the 1800s that prohibits the military from participating in domestic law-enforcement activities. ". But I will tell you this: Anybody throwing stones, rocks like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military and Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers, we will consider that a firearm because there's not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock".
A Pentagon spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, declined to discuss specifics on the military's potential use of force, but said that U.S. troops "always have the inherent right of self-defense". "The president is fear mongering to score political points ahead of a contentious election at the expense of people's lives".
The Pentagon said more than 7,000 active-duty troops are being sent to the southern border, with more possible.
The migrant caravan making its way toward the US border hasn't stopped but it is seeing some attrition after Mexico refused to provide the group with transportation.
Republican lawmakers and other Trump supporters have applauded the deployment. Trump has spent the waning days of the campaign hammering the issue at every occasion as he tries to energize Republican voters using the same playbook that helped him win in 2016.
Trump said families will remain together in tents and other structures that the Army Corps of Engineers is now putting together while their asylum cases play out.
Gilman says she's confident the president's actions would be challenged in court "immediately", and that she expects federal courts would invalidate changes to the asylum procedure.