At least 270 people traveling among the thousands in the new migrant caravans have criminal records, Homeland Security said Thursday, putting numbers to President Trump’s claims last month.
U.S. officials also said the caravan could begin to arrive in a few days, though it could also take weeks, depending on how they travel the length of Mexico and whether they make any more long stops along the way.
Mexican government officials, whose police have already clashed with some members of the caravan, described some participants as “very violent.” Meanwhile foreign governments tell the U.S. that perhaps 50 percent of the caravan is made up of single adults, complicating the narrative of thousands of women and children fleeing their homes.
Homeland Security said the intelligence chief in Guatemala, through which the caravans cross en route from Honduras north to Mexico, said the men are pushing women and children to the front the mass of people to use them as “human shields” against the police and military who tried to block their progress.
The U.S. government released the details Thursday night, hours after Mr. Trump said he’ll take new steps to try to block the caravans from reaching the U.S.
His military deployment is quickly ramping up, with all 5,200 of the initial wave of troops slated to be at the border by Friday. The president on Wednesday said that number could grow to 15,000.
For now the troops will provide logistical support for the Border Patrol, but Mr. Trump told The Washington Times that he will ask them to step up and do actually patrolling themselves “in a heartbeat” if the situation gets worse.
Mr. Trump also announced he will issue an executive order next week curtailing the ways migrants can demand asylum. He suggested limiting asylum claims to those who show up at official ports of entry, while denying those who jump the border the chance to claim asylum.