WASHINGTON - For the second day in a row Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump railed against illegal immigration into the country at its southern border with Mexico, contending that the U.S. "is being stolen" by the migrants.
He complained about a stream of about 1,100 people marching north through Mexico to escape poverty and violence in Central America in long-shot bids to win asylum in the United States.
"Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large "Caravans" of people enter their country," Trump said in one of a string of tweets. "They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws."
The migrants, mostly from Honduras, plan to turn themselves in at the U.S. border or slip into the country, according to Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders), which has organized the long winding march through Mexico. The migrants, who have already walked hundreds of kilometers north from the Mexican-Guatemalan border, are traveling in a large group in hopes of thwarting criminal gangs known to rob immigrants as they set out in search of a new life in the United States.
Two smaller caravans reached the U.S. last year. So far, three people out of 200 seeking asylum have been successful, with the rest yet to be decided.
Mexico's Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida responded to Trump Monday, saying "It is absolutely incorrect to say that Mexico is not making an effort" to control illegal migration.
He said Mexico has been following the course of the caravan, but rejected pressure from the United States. "Of course we will act, let me be clear, in strict compliance with our migration laws, without accepting pressure from any country or anyone," he said.
In his new tweets Monday, Trump said, "Congress must immediately pass Border Legislation ... to stop the massive inflow of Drugs and People," even if means abandoning long-standing Senate parliamentary rules to approve a measure on a simple majority vote.
Calling for new legislation
Trump administration officials told reporters Monday that the White House was preparing legislation aimed at helping expedite some deportations of immigrants in the country illegally.
The U.S. leader said that U.S. border patrol agents "are GREAT," but argued that "weak" laws approved by opposition Democratic lawmakers "don't allow them to do their job. Act now Congress, our country is being stolen!"
DACA still in limbo
Trump last year ended a program championed by former president Barack Obama to protect from deportation about 800,000 young people who were brought illegally into the country by their parents when they were children.
Court decisions have at least temporarily blocked the deportation of the immigrants, many of whom have only known the United States as their home, but Trump and Democratic lawmakers have failed to reach a permanent legislative fix. The recent $1.3 trillion bill that funded government agencies through the end of September made no mention of the dispute.
Trump in the past has said he would show "great heart" for the plight of the young immigrants protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and said he would keep the program in place in exchange for full funding of a wall he wants built along the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart more illegal migrants from entering the U.S.
But lately, Trump has taken a harder line against the young immigrants, often called Dreamers by their advocates.
"DACA is dead because the Democrats didn't care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon" by entering the country illegally, he said. "No longer works."
He added, "Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!"
On Sunday, as Trump unleashed the barrage of attacks on Mexico, foreign affairs secretary Luis Videgaray Caso rebuffed the U.S. leader.
"Every day Mexico and the U.S. work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this," he said. "An inaccurate news report should not serve to question this strong cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law. Happy Easter."