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  •  A man gives children rocks to play with inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

    A man gives children rocks to play with inside an enclosure, where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 April 2019
Opinion

Around 27,000 children are expected to migrate to the U.S. in April, despite Trump's threats to close the border.

Acting United States Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a request to identify places to potentially house up to 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

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In March, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requested Pentagon support to identify locations to house unaccompanied migrant children through Sept. 30 this year.

Migrant arrivals on the U.S. border with Mexico have been building steadily for months, driven largely by growing numbers of children and families from Central America.

In February, the number of migrants at the border reached 560 percent above those for the same period last year. In April alone, around 27,000 children are expected to cross the border and enter the immigration enforcement system, the New York Times reported.

Pentagon Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis told Reuters that Shanahan approved the request Tuesday, but added that HHS has made no request to actually house the children so far.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he was not reviving a policy of separating children from parents who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, one day after media reported that his administration was considering reinstating it.

In February, Trump declared a national emergency in an effort to build a border wall, as the declaration would allow him to spend money on it that Congress had appropriated for other purposes. Congress declined to fulfill his request for US$5.7 billion to build a wall where one already exists -- and where one doesn’t; life-threatening terrain serves as a fatal barrier.

The Republican president's latest pronouncements, including a threat to impose auto tariffs on Mexico, are in response to a rising number of migrants, and his own trumpeted xenophobia and racism.

The president said last Friday the United States cannot accept any more migrants and should turn them all away. “Our country is full,” he said. “I’m sorry... that’s the way it is.” By Monday, he had selected Stephen Miller, a white nationalist, to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (I.C.E.).

The president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has actually encouraged a greater influx of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because smugglers have used his threats to close the border to drive business.

According to the New York Times, smugglers have been buying radio ads in Central America with warnings that Mr. Trump is about to shut down all immigration, so the time to go to the U.S. is now, they say.

Previously, Trump has turned to the military to help with his border crackdown. Last year, the U.S. military was asked to house up to 20,000 immigrant children, however, space was never used.

Last month the Pentagon said it had shifted US$1 billion to plan and build a 92-kilometer (57-mile) section of "pedestrian fencing," roads and lighting along the border with Mexico. There are about 6,000 active duty and National Guard troops near the border.

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