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caravan
November 15, 2018

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen traveled to Donna, Texas, on Wednesday to visit some of the 5,900 active duty troops President Trump sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to counter a "caravan" of Central American migrants. "Let's have at it, young soldiers: What's on your mind?" Mattis asked one small group of Army soldiers. "Sir, I have a question," one soldier said. "The wire obstacles that we've implanted along the border ... Are we going to be taking those out when we leave?"

The question drew "a few smirks from those around him," reports BuzzFeed's Vera Bergengruen. "The most visible role U.S. troops have served since they began arriving on Oct. 29 has been stringing up concertina wire, a razor wire that is notoriously hard to remove." And laying out anywhere from 22 miles to 170 miles of razor wire appears to be their primary mission. "We'll see what the secretary says, okay?" Mattis answered, pointing to Nielsen, widely tipped to be fired soon. "Right now, the mission is put them in."

The troops — like the 2,100 National Guard troops Trump sent to the border in April — won't be allowed to arrest or detain anybody and can't enforce immigration or criminal law.

Mattis described the "absolutely legal" deployment as a "moral and ethical mission" to counter illegal immigration. He said his mother — who, Bergengruen notes, Mattis previously said emigrated from Canada as an infant — "told me how hard it was to get into America. So believe me, we want legal immigration." And the deployment wasn't unprecedented, he said, citing President Woodrow Wilson sending the Army to the border in 1916 to fight "Pancho Villa's troops."

"What are the short- and the long-term plans of this operation, sir?" another young soldier asked Mattis. "Short term right now, you get the obstacles in so the border patrolmen can do what they gotta do," Mattis said. "Longer term, it's somewhat to be determined." Peter Weber

October 19, 2018

An estimated 4,000-person caravan of Honduran migrants is preparing to push over Guatemala's border with Mexico on their way to America, despite Mexican and U.S. government efforts to hold them back.

After a smaller initial group crossed a river into Mexico on Thursday night, the remaining migrants left a nearby town and reached the Mexico-Guatemala border Friday afternoon. They have since torn down gates at the closed border crossing, but failed to power past police forces and cross a bridge connecting the two countries, The Associated Press reports.

Migrants in the massive caravan, which includes young children and pregnant women, are fleeing dire economic circumstances and in some cases violence in their home country. The group that's at the border has spent nearly a week walking through Honduras and Guatemala on its way to the U.S., while a separate caravan is currently traveling through El Salvador on its way north, reports NBC News.

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to cut off aid to Honduras and any Latin American countries who fail to stop the caravan from reaching the U.S., and on Thursday he pledged to close the southern border. But on Thursday night, the Trump administration agreed to work with the United Nations to identify which of the migrants had "legitimate" asylum claims, and will likely reject the rest, reports USA Today.

BuzzFeed News' Karla Zabludovsky, who is traveling with the caravan, reports that Mexican officials are barring all entries, and some migrants have given up and turned back. Kathryn Krawczyk

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