- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2019

President Trump renewed his anger at Mexico on Wednesday, reviving his threat to shut down parts of the border unless America’s southern neighbor does more to stop a migrant caravan.

Meanwhile, his administration announced a new 5% retention bonus aimed at stopping Border Patrol agents from fleeing the force amid the growing chaos at the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

Stymied by an inability to forge compromise on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration is looking for solutions it can do on its own and turning to partners outside the country — chiefly Mexico.

Mr. Trump said a key test will be a new caravan of more than 20,000 people that crossed into Mexico.

“It has been reduced in size by Mexico but is still coming. Mexico must apprehend the remainder or we will be forced to close that section of the Border & call up the Military,” the president tweeted.

He also bristled at the report that Mexican soldiers, apparently confused by the boundary line, disarmed U.S. National Guard troops who say they were on American soil assisting the Border Patrol mission.

“Better not happen again!” the president tweeted, speculating that the Mexican soldiers were acting as “a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers.”

Mr. Trump’s vow to shut down part of the border has never been fully explained, and it’s unclear exactly what he has in mind. Legal analysts say he would be on firmer footing if the closure was limited in scope but would face hurdles if he tried a full shutdown over a large swath of the border.

The president on Wednesday also repeatedly praised the Border Patrol, saying agents have “been incredible” as they faced the unprecedented surge of migrant children and families.

The new retention bonus is aimed at stopping the attrition that has depleted agents’ numbers.

The Border Patrol is supposed to have 21,370 agents, and Mr. Trump has called for hiring 5,000 more.

Instead, the agency is operating at well below even the current target.

At the end of fiscal 2018, there were just 19,555 agents, and the agency lost another 119 through the first five months of this fiscal year, said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Mr. Judd and the council worked with the administration to reach a deal on the bonus retention money, saying they needed to do something to stop the losses without waiting for Congress.

“I greatly appreciate President Trump and the administration thinking outside the box and looking at ways they can retain employees within the authority they have,” he said.

Officials said the new bonuses will go to agents willing to commit to a yearlong service agreement and will be paid out on a quarterly basis. The first checks would be cut in September.

“We are facing a humanitarian and border security crisis on the southwest border, and those who serve on the frontline are vital to that effort,” said John P. Sanders, acting commissioner at Customs and Border Protection, the Homeland Security branch that oversees the Border Patrol.

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