After chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday forced U.S. authorities to fire tear gas into a violent crowd of angry migrants seeking to enter the United States, President Trump on Monday warned that "we will close the Border permanently if need be."
The president also said that many of the so-called migrants now gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border are "stone cold criminals" and urged Mexico to send them back to their homes "anyway you want."
"Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. 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. Congress, fund the WALL!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
The president's tweet came after hundreds of migrants charged the U.S. border near San Diego, prompting U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials to fire tear gas. That conflict led U.S. officials to shut down the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana for more than six hours. As many as 6,000 migrants are now camping out in Tijuana.
According to U.S. officials, the conflict was started by the migrants. San Diego Sector Border Control chief patrol agent Rodney Scott said on CNN that migrants approached border fences and "immediately started throwing rocks and debris at our agents, taunting our agents."
"And once our agents were assaulted and the numbers started growing – you know we had two or three agents at a time facing hundreds of people at a time – they deployed tear gas to protect themselves and protect the border," Scott said.
Chief of U.S. Border Patrol Carla Provost told Fox news that "our agents were being assaulted. A large group approached the area and they were throwing rocks and bottles at my men and women, putting them in harm's way as well as other members of the caravan."
"DHS will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a Sunday statement.
Mexico is heeding Trump's warning. Top officials pledged to beef up security near the border and local authorities arrested 43 migrants in the melee on Sunday. Meanwhile, Mexico’s Interior Ministry said it would immediately deport those who tried to “violently” enter the U.S. from Tijuana.
While many news outlets ran photos of women with small children fleeing tear gas and claimed that the migrants are simply seeking asylum from their war-torn countries, Scott said that's not what he saw.
"What I saw on the border yesterday was not people walking up to Border Patrol agents and asking to claim asylum," he said. "Matter of fact, one of the groups I watched, one of the groups that several of them were arrested, they passed 10 or 15 marked Border Patrol units ... numerous uniformed personnel, as they were chanting, waving a Honduran flag, and throwing rocks at the agents," the San Diego border chief said.
"If they were truly asylum seekers, they would have just walked up with their hands up and surrendered. And that did not take place," he said.