US President Donald Trump has strongly defending the US use of tear gas at the Mexican border to repel a crowd of migrants and blamed the parents of the children who were caught up in the melee.
Critics denounced the border agents’ action as overkill, but Mr Trump kept to a hard line.
“They were being rushed by some very tough people and they used tear gas,” Mr Trump said.
“Here’s the bottom line: Nobody is coming into our country unless they come in legally.”
At a roundtable meeting in Mississippi on Monday, Mr Trump seemed to acknowledge that children were affected, asking: “Why is a parent running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming and it’s going to be formed and they were running up with a child?”
He said it was “a very minor form of the tear gas itself” that he assured was “very safe”.
Without offering evidence, he also claimed that some of the women are not really parents but are instead “grabbers” who steal children so they have a better chance of being granted asylum in the US.
The showdown at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing has thrown into sharp relief two competing narratives about the caravan of migrants hoping to apply for asylum but stuck on the Mexican side.
Mr Trump portrays them as a threat to US national security, intent on exploiting America’s asylum law, but others insist he is exaggerating to stoke fears and achieve his political goals.
The sheer size of the caravan makes it unusual.
Mr Trump rails against migrant caravans as dangerous groups of mostly single men.
That view featured heavily in his speeches during the midterm election campaign when several were hundreds of miles away, travelling on foot.
Officials have said some 500 members are criminals but have not backed that up with details on why they think so.
On Monday, Mr Trump tweeted that the caravan at the border included “stone cold criminals”.
Mario Figueroa, Tijuana’s social services department director who is overseeing operations at the sports complex where most of the migrants in the caravan are staying, said as of Friday that of the 4,938 staying there, 933 were women, 889 were children and 3,105 were men, which includes fathers travelling with families along with single men.
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