"They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back".
Trump's tweet was referring to reports on Sunday that a group of migrants broke through a gate at Guatemala's border, clashing with local police. Trump says tent cities could be set up for asylum seekers even though that would not resolve the massive US backlog of asylum seekers. The U.S. also doesn't have space at the border to manage the large-scale detention of migrants, with most facilities at capacity.
His comments were the latest twist in a story that has pushed the Pentagon unhappily into the political space, prompting questions about whether Defence Secretary Jim Mattis was allowing the military to be leveraged as a political stunt.
Migrants reaching Mexico after crossing the Suchiate River from Tecun Uman in Guatemala to Ciudad Hidalgo in Mexico on October 29, 2018, a day after a security fence on the global bridge was reinforced to prevent them from passing through.
Trump was asked whether he could see the armed active-duty military personnel on the border firing at anyone if a similar situation occurred in the U.S.
This deployment is separate from an ongoing National Guard effort to support border authorities with technical assistance.
Should the President decide to send the full 15,000 troops to the USA border, then that would be almost double the number of troops the U.S. has deployed in both Iraq and Syria combined to fight ISIS. An official says there are about 2,600 US troops now at staging bases, largely in Texas, with several thousand more expected to flow in through the weekend and move into California and Arizona.
The figure took the Pentagon by surprise as it had only planned to send 7,000 troops to support Customs and Border Protection agents.
Trump said Wednesday that the number could go as high as 15,000.
But the US commander in chief contended in a Wednesday morning tweet that the caravans, one with young people and the other composed mostly of women and children, "are made up of some very tough fighters and people".
Eager to keep his conservative base fired up - just five days before midterm elections that will shape his domestic agenda - President Donald Trump claimed a Central American migrant caravan headed to the U.S. -Mexico border includes "very tough fighters" that had wounded Mexican security personnel.
That's according to three people familiar with the plans who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly. He said the plan would shut down access to asylum for people who seek safety in the United States unless they go to legal ports of entry.
Indonesia Lion Air flight with 189 on board crashes into sea
It said there were two foreigners on board the plane: its pilot, originally from New Delhi, and an Italian citizen. The plane was reported to be carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two babies, and eight crew members.
Mr Trump has been accused of playing up concerns over immigration to help drive up turnout among his supporters, with the Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives on the line at next week's elections.
- With reporting from Jill Colvin and Colleen Long.
The Washington Post's Fact Checker reported last month that Trump had made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims in the first 601 days of his presidency - an average of 8.3 claims a day - and that the pace is picking up.
It was reminiscent of the infamous "Willie Horton" ad used against Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 and condemned as racist.
Trump highlighted the case of Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported immigrant from Mexico sentenced to death in California for killing two police officers.
The captioned reads: "Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!"
The video includes scenes of migrants moving toward the US and asks ominously, "Who else would Democrats let in?" Trump provides no evidence linking Democrats to Bracamontes.
That means more than 9,000 troops have already been committed to military operations on the border and Trump, who is prone to hyperbole, on Wednesday said the final number could swell to 15,000 troops.
The Democrats, for their part, have seemed to founder in terms of presenting a coherent message on border and immigration issues and the caravans.
Trump has ratcheted up the focus on illegal immigration with the USA midterm elections less than a week away.
The president announced on Wednesday that he was considering deploying up to 15,000 troops to the U.S.