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02 November 2018, 01:02 | Tara Lloyd
Several hundred migrants in a separate 'caravan' crossed into Mexico from Guatemala on Monday
Credit CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS REUTERS
Trump has publicly declared that the migrant caravan, which he says contains Middle Easterners and terrorists, will be a central issue for the 2018 midterms just days away.
McAleenan described the situation along the US-Mexico frontier as a "border security and humanitarian crisis" and said border agents over the past three weeks had apprehended about 1,900 people per day illegally crossing.
Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, head of the United States military's Northern Command, told reporters the 5,200 troops would focus on trying to "harden" border crossings and surrounding areas, with work done by combat engineering battalions with experience building temporary fencing.
A low-flying police helicopter hovered overhead as the migrants waded in large groups across the murky river, apparently trying to use the downdraft from its rotors to discourage them. About 600 migrants in the second group tried to cross a bridge from Guatemala to Mexico en masse Monday.
"If they apply for asylum, we're going to hold them until such time as their trial takes place".
On Sunday, one migrant died after he was hit with a rubber bullet when Mexican federal police rebuffed another group of migrants who tried to enter the country over the global bridge.
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USA officials told Reuters last week the military will have not have an active law enforcement role, instead sending engineers, pilots and other support staff including some that may be able deal with crowd control on the US side of the border.
In an interview Monday, Trump said the US would build "tent cities" for asylum seekers. One of the migrants died from the confrontation.
The migrant group's attempt to pick up the pace via government-provided transportation has been prompted by "waning enthusiasm" for their mission, as illustrated by the 3,000 or so migrants who have turned back home, "disheartened by the many miles yet to go and misbehavior by some fellow travelers", AP notes. "But if that's not possible, well, permission here in Mexico to work or stay here".
Already Monday, some 800 active-duty troops were on their way to Texas to "harden the southern border", said Air Force Gen. Terrance O'Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command.
"If you're already seeking asylum, you've been given a generous offer", he said of Mexico.
"CBP personnel are absolutely the primary and principle members that will be handling specifically the migrants", he said.
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But news reports quote unnamed USA officials as saying the White House is weighing a range of administrative and legal actions on grounds of national security to restrict the ability of migrants to seek asylum.
"If you wanna wait, they don't usually get asylum".
"We've seen violence coming out of the caravan", O'Shaughnessy said.
Again, without providing evidence, he said there are "many gang members and some very bad people mixed into the caravan".
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The caravan was headed for Tapachula, a city about 37 km (23 miles) north of the Mexico-Guatemala border, the officers told CNN. A growing crowd of Central American migrants is resuming its advance toward the USA border in southern Mexico on Sunday.
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