EL PASO, Texas – State Sen. José Rodríguez, a member of the Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee, has criticized President Trump’s plans to send active duty military to the border.

Trump said he would send as many as 1,000 active-duty Army troops to help secure the southern border and stop what he has called an “onslaught” of Central American immigrants heading north through Mexico. 

A caravan of migrants, currently about 1,000 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, includes many women and children seeking refuge from violence and economic hardship.

“The migrants say they want to raise awareness of the dangerous conditions in their home countries in Central America. The administration is claiming they are a national security threat. This is a ridiculous assertion. How in the world can our great country be so afraid of a few thousand desperate people that we would send the military to greet them?” asked Sen. Rodriguez, D-El Paso.

“The answer is that the administration is trying to distract us from what truly matters by creating fear based on lies, and misusing the military in the process. The president knows that in Texas, people care about their education and health care, and their neighbors.”

State Sen. José Rodríguez

In the long term, Rodriguez said, Americans must “revisit the principles of immigration reform – unifying families, providing work visas, offering pathway to citizenship, maintaining an already strong enforcement presence on the border, and targeting dangerous criminal organizations – and help those countries rebuild what they have lost, in some cases through U.S. actions.”

He said the U.S. has a responsibility and an opportunity “to help make things better through practical and humane policies toward our southern hemispheric neighbors.”

Meanwhile, the best solution for Texans, Rodriguez said, is to “stay focused on getting your friends and family to vote for candidates who won’t lie about groups of people – be they immigrants, LGBTQ, or religious minorities – to create fear that produces unAmerican, anti-freedom public policy.”

Rodriguez added: “We’ve been through periods of draconian anti-immigrant policies that included internment camps, and without fail, we’ve always looked back with shame and regret. We are in a moment where we can overcome this pattern by stopping these terrible policies before they do further harm.”

Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was interviewed by Fox News’ Martha MacCallum next to the border wall on Thursday. 

We have been in close conversations with DOD,” Nielsen said. “We have asked them to help bolster our capabilities. We have asked for some air support, we have asked for some logistics, planning, vehicle barriers, engineering. Ways in which we can make sure I can protect my officers and agents, as well as the ports of entry themselves.”

Asked if the military will be armed, Nielsen said the rules of engagement will be left to Defense Secretary Mattis. 

Asked what would happen if the migrants step foot on American soil, Nielsen said: “The president has been very clear. If you do not have a legal right to come to this country, and you come as part of this caravan, and you come in our caravan, you will be returned home.”

Nielsen said she is waiting to see what the caravan is going to do. “We are bringing everything we can to protect the ports of entry. We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people. They will be apprehended, however. We will absolutely not tolerate violence against Border Patrol in this situation.”

Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen said he is concerned about recent language regarding migrants traveling through Central America.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

“The Administration is trying to paint some members of Congress as the culprits of this ‘migrant caravan’ and past mass migration. However, I can personally attest to the falsity of this argument. I have travelled to these countries on bipartisan delegations, met with foreign leaders, and invited the executive branch to join the conversation on how to improve years of failed foreign policy in Central America.

“Since coming to Congress, I have asserted that Mexico must protect its southern border and do more to stem irregular migration. Today, I call on Mexico to be a good neighbor and do just that.

“Now is the time for action. Now is the time to say, ‘we can solve this issue before it arrives at our doorstep.’ The U.S., and Mexico, need to strengthen the dialogue with every neighbor to the south and develop strategies to decrease gang violence, grow economies, and incentivize these individuals to live and flourish in their native countries.

“If we fail to do this, we will be dealing with the same issue next year – and every year after – until we address this problem at its root,” Gonzalez said.

Meanwhile, The New York Times is reporting that President Trump is considering taking executive action “to bar migrants, including asylum seekers, from entering the country at the southern border.”

The newspaper says the amounts to “a sweeping use of presidential power to fortify the border and impose the kind of aggressive immigration restrictions and enforcement measures that Mr. Trump has made his signature pursuit.”

The plan is expected to prompt a swift challenge in federal courts, NYT notes.

“The move would be the most drastic in a series of steps that Mr. Trump has taken or threatened to take in recent days — including preparations on Thursday to send as many as 1,000 active-duty Army troops to help secure the southern border — as he works to stop what he has called an “onslaught” of immigrants only days before the midterm elections,” the newspaper states.

“As part of that effort, the president has capitalized this month on the thousands of Central American migrants trekking north through Mexico. Many in the group are women and children believed to be seeking refuge from violence and economic hardship. He said without evidence this week that criminals and “unknown Middle Easterners” were “mixed in” among the people in the migrant caravan, and has blamed its formation on Democrats, falsely charging that they support allowing immigrants to stream, unchecked, into the country.”

Click here to read the full New York Times story.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows a U.S. Army infantryman waiting atop an M2 Bradley fighting vehicle for the start of a live fire training exercise at Presidenski Range in Trzebian, Poland, March 26, 2018. (Photos: Spc. Dustin Biven/Army)