Top Republican Senator Seeks Briefings on Migrant Caravan Security Threats

By Zack Stieber

Top Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is seeking security briefings from Trump administration officials on security threats relating to the migrant caravan heading toward the United States.

Grassley requested the briefing in an Oct. 30 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, which was made public on Nov. 1.

“As the first caravan is reportedly 1-2 days from the United States, it is important that the Committee is briefed on details on the makeup of the caravan including any potential national security threats that reportedly exist among the members. According to information obtained by my office, several members of the first caravan have significant criminal histories, including assault and sexual misconduct against a child, and membership in the MS-13 gang,” Grassley wrote.

“Further, the Department of Homeland Security recently reported that several hundred members of the second caravan clashed with Mexican federal police throwing rocks, glass bottles, and even fireworks at Mexican officers in a seemingly criminal altercation.”

Migrant caravan rides trucks to get north
Migrants travel on trucks as the thousands-strong caravan of Central Americans migrants hoping to reach the southern United States border moved onward from Juchitan, Oaxaca state, Mexico, on Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

The request for briefings for Grassley, who is head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, came as the Department of Homeland Security revealed that more than 270 migrants traveling in the caravans have confirmed criminal histories, including gang membership in gangs such as the notorious MS-13.

Grassley said that he wants to make sure people who request asylum are provided with humanitarian relief but that criminals are quickly removed from the country.

Grassley’s request came as President Donald Trump addressed the caravan issue by ordering up to 15,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border earlier in the week.

Central American migrants force customs gate
Central American migrants try to force their way through a customs gate at the border bridge connecting Guatemala and Mexico, in Tecun Uman, on Oct. 28, 2018. (Santiago Billy/AP)

Trump Addresses Caravan

Speaking from the White House on Nov. 1, Trump said that the caravans approaching the border are “a perilous situation, and it threatens to become even more hazardous as our economy gets better and better.”

Echoing statements from Mexican and Guatemalan officials and video footage from the ground, Trump noted that the second caravan violently barged into Mexico and inflicted injuries on a number of police officers.

“They have violently overrun the Mexican border. You saw that two days ago,” he said. “They’ve overrun the Mexican police, and they’ve overrun and hurt badly Mexican soldiers. So this isn’t an innocent group of people. It’s a large number of people that are tough. They’ve injured, they’ve attacked, and the Mexican police and military has actually suffered.”

He also said that he has issued a directive to immigration officials to no longer engage in catch-and-release, where illegal aliens who enter the United States can be released pending an asylum hearing, noting that the migrants rejected an asylum offer from the Mexican government, “which demonstrate that these migrants are not legitimate asylum-seekers.”

“They’re not looking for protection. Because if they were, they’d be able to get it from Mexico. Mexico has agreed to take them in and encouraged them to stay. But they don’t want to stay; they want to come into the United States. So this is no longer safety, and asylum is about safety,” he said.

“Big change, as of a couple of days ago. We’re going to no longer release. We’re going to catch; we’re not going to release. They’re going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place. So we’re not releasing them into the community.”