Hundreds of troops sent to stop migrants

Hundreds of troops sent to stop migrants

US President Donald Trump’s administration is trying a dramatic new tack when it comes to securing its borders in the form of a relentless show of force.

Hundreds of government personnel have descended on the Texas border town of Eagle Pass to block passage of migrants who arrived via “caravan”, parking vehicles and roaming the banks of the Rio Grande river.

Earlier this week 1800 caravan migrants, who travelled in groups from South America, arrived at Piedras Negras in Mexico, a river city and border town separated from the US by the Rio Grande river.

US Government personnel have flooded the Texas township in a “show of force”, according to Border Patrol, aimed at deterring Central American migrants from attempting to illegally enter the US.

The personnel includes state troopers, customs and border protection officials, Department of Public Safety personnel and military troops including the National Guard and the Texas State Guard.

On top of this, Mr Trump has now ordered an extra 250 active duty troops to arrive in the coming days.

Helicopters patrol the river and surrounding areas, while in the river high-powered boats check the waters.

Officials also roam the area on all-terrain vehicles, bicycles and on horseback.

The Mexican Government is having to deal with thousands of migrants who are trying to make their way to the US, with hundreds of Mexican authorities lining one side of the river in their own vehicles while the US continues to send more manpower to its shoreline.

“It’s a combination of customs and border protection vehicles and Texas state troopers … they are all lined up literally side-by-side all nose facing towards Mexico,” said Martin Savage, reporting for NBC.

“Then if you take a look at the other side of the Rio Grande across the border just recently we’ve seen this, Mexican authorities now lined up facing exactly the opposite direction.”

Eagle Pass mayor Ramsey English Cantu expressed his gratitude but added the extent of the military presence was “unprecedented”.

“We are extremely appreciative of the work that they do, but this is something that is unprecedented,” he said.

The “caravans” are groups of asylum seekers, often having come through Mexico from South America — countries like Venezuela and Honduras that are rocked by violence and political upheaval.

Mr Trump took time to highlight the threat posed by the travellers in his State of the Union address last week, and border towns have now beefed up security in areas they see as weak points, including bridges.

At Eagle Pass, US officials have reduced the number of asylum requests they’ll process to 15 per day.

This number is reduced if migrants are caught attempting to enter the US by swimming across the river, as paperwork involved with such incidents is time-consuming.

The system is called “metering” and is a process imposed by the Trump administration to force travelling migrants to wait weeks or months in border towns with little knowledge of when their claims will be processed.

As they take refuge in churches or warehouses provided by NGOs, the thousands of migrants, many impoverished, are vulnerable to being preyed upon by local criminals as they settle in for many months waiting to be processed.

Currently, thousands of the migrants in Piedras Negras are being held in an abandoned industrial factory, where according to reports they have rifled through garbage looking for warm clothing.

Mr Trump has referred to the migration issue and the impasse around border wall funding as an “urgent national crisis”

“As we speak large organised caravans are on the march toward to the United States,” the President said.

“Part of our preparations include installation of temporary impediment measures on our bridges such as conex boxes, concertina wire and jersey barriers,” said Paul del Rincon, port director for the port of Eagle Pass.

When a reporter asked the port director if he thought it was going to be “a short-term thing”, Mr del Rincon responded, “It doesn’t seem like it. It doesn’t seem like it, but you know, we stand committed, my officers stand committed.”

This is not the first time Mr Trump has employed military force to deal with migrant caravan arrivals at US borders.

The President sent troops to deal with breakaways from a caravan of migrants in November last year who departed from a larger group of around 5000 travellers and attempted to make it into the US.

The migrants gathered on a Tijuana beach near a large border fence topped with barbed wire, climbing the high fence as US border patrol officials looked on.

Some quickly jumped back down to the Mexican side of the fence, while others jumped onto the US side and were immediately arrested.

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