Then-President Donald Trump and members of his administration discussed unprecedented ways to try to secure the southern border before being persuaded not to pursue them, The New York Times reported.
There was talk at the Department of Homeland Security and at a top military command in the spring of 2020 of sending as many as 250,000 troops — more than half the active U.S. Army — to the border, the Times reported Tuesday.
Trump also suggested that the military send troops into Mexico to hunt down drug cartels — similar to American commandos tracking and killing terrorists in Afghanistan or Pakistan — but relented after aides said that many countries would see the move as an act of war against a close ally and the U.S.'s biggest trading partner, officials told the Times.
Trump understood that securing the U.S.-Mexico border situation was so important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, he tried to think out of the box — demanding that a border wall contain flesh-piercing spikes, wondering whether a moat filled with alligators could be implemented, and asking about the possibility of shooting migrants in the leg as they crossed the border. Aides also considered a heat-ray that would make migrants’ skin feel hot, the Times said.
The enormous troops presence at the border would have involved a sixth of all American forces. Such a move would have been the largest use of the military inside the U.S. since the Civil War, the Times said.
Stephen Miller, architect of Trump's immigration agenda, had urged DHS to devise a plan for the number of troops that would be needed to seal the entire 2,000-mile southern border.
The idea was relayed to officials at the Defense Department’s Northern Command, which is responsible for all military operations in the U.S. and on its borders, several former senior administration officials told the Times.
The newspaper, citing officials, said the idea never was presented formally to Trump for approval, though it was discussed in meetings at the White House.
Then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, according to the Times report, was enraged by both Miller's plan and by the fact homeland security officials had bypassed his office by taking the idea directly to military officials at Northern Command.
Esper reportedly also was concerned that deploying so many troops to the border would undermine American military readiness internationally.
After a brief but contentious Oval Office confrontation between Miller and Esper, the Pentagon ended consideration of the plan, the Times reported.
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