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Trump says he’ll close Mexico border permanently if needed

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A migrant man pushes a child in a baby stroller past a cordon of riot police as he joins a small group of migrants trying to cross the border together at the Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. A small group of Central American migrants marched peacefully to a border crossing in Tijuana Thursday to demand better conditions and push to enter the U.S. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

President Donald Trump said the U.S. will close its southern border with Mexico if needed, a day after U.S. agents shot several rounds of tear gas at migrants, some of whom tried to breach a border fence.

“Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries,” Trump said Monday on Twitter. “Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be.”

Trump made similar threats in October ahead of the midterm elections, warning that an approaching “caravan” of migrants posed a risk to U.S. security and claiming without evidence that criminals were among the group. So far, he hasn’t followed through on those threats.

Details of any potential closing of the 1,954-mile border aren’t yet clear. Mexico is the third-largest American goods trading partner with $557.6 billion in two-way trade during 2017, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Trade in services accounted for another $58 billion.

The Mexican peso fell as much as 0.3 percent after Trump’s tweet, weakening to as low as 20.4624 per dollar, before rebounding Monday.

U.S. border officials on Sunday temporarily closed the San Ysidro port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego, one of the busiest border crossings in the world, “to ensure public safety” after agents shot several rounds of tear gas at migrants, leaving children screaming and coughing, the Associated Press reported.

Agents arrested 42 migrants on the U.S. side after they breached the border, Rodney Scott, chief patrol agent for the U.S. Border Patrol’s San Diego sector, told CNN on Monday. Protesters threw rocks at agents, Scott said, defending his agency’s use of tear gas on the group, which he described as mostly male.

“What I saw on the border yesterday was not people walking up to border control agents and asking to seek asylum,” Scott said.

An estimated 8,200 migrants from the so-called caravans heading to the U.S. from Central America are now in Mexico, authorities say. Trump has vowed to shut down the southern border with lethal force if necessary, and is calling on Mexico to intervene.

Immigration — an issue Trump has relied on to rev up his base — has proved legislatively thorny. Democrats and even some lawmakers in Trump’s own party have resisted his calls to fund his proposed border wall.

Trump wants migrants to remain in Mexico while their U.S. asylum cases are adjudicated.

Gerardo Garcia, head of the immigration department at Mexico’s interior ministry, said 98 Central American migrants were arrested Sunday and are being deported. Jesus Ramirez, a spokesman for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration, which takes over Dec. 1, said the relevant incoming ministers will meet later Monday in Mexico City to discuss the border situation and Trump’s remarks.

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