WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he signed an order to close the U.S. border with Mexico and authorized troops to use lethal force against migrants who attempt to enter the U.S.
"If they have to," Trump said at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, claiming without evidence that at least 500 criminals are among migrants trying to enter the U.S. "So I'm not going to let the military be taken advantage of. I have no choice. Do I want that to happen? Absolutely not. But you're dealing with rough people."
He also said that he would welcome a partial shutdown of the government over "border security."
Trump said he signed the order two earlier and that "I've already shut down parts of the border." He said that the entire border may be closed if conflict with migrants escalates.
"If we find that it's uncontrollable, if we find that it gets to a level where we are going to lose control or people are going to start getting hurt, we will close entry into the country for a period of time until we can get it under control," Trump said. "The whole border. I mean the whole border. And Mexico will not be able to sell their cars into the United States where they make so many cars at great benefit to them, not at great benefit to us."
The White House hasn't released such an order and Trump wasn't clear about his directive.
Before the midterm elections in which Republicans lost control of the House, Trump ordered the military to reinforce the southern border, repeatedly warning voters about the caravan of migrants traveling from Central America to the U.S. His critics called the deployment a political stunt.
Next week, Congress returns for its post-election session in which a top priority will be to authorize full fiscal 2019 budgets for several agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Internal Revenue Service and the National Park Service. Temporary funding for the agencies expires Dec. 7. Congress already approved full-year spending for most of the U.S. government, meaning that a shutdown would be limited.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to veto spending bills if Congress continues to refuse to fund his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.