Trump: Border troops authorized to use lethal force ‘if they have to’

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily says Trump travel ban preventing mother from seeing dying son Saudi Arabia rejects Senate position on Khashoggi killing Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE confirmed Thursday that troops he sent to the southern border had authorization to use lethal force to stop migrants from entering the country. 

“If they have to, they’re going to use lethal force. I’ve — I’ve given the OK. If they have to. I hope they don’t have to,” he said, adding that he was open to the possibility of closing the entire border if necessary. 

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White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE signed a Cabinet order Wednesday allowing some troops to engage in law enforcement activities and use lethal force, loosening the engagement restrictions on military personnel at the southwest border.

Troops may “perform those military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary,” according to the report, which explains that “protective activities" include “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search.” 

Earlier this month, the Pentagon deployed roughly 5,800 troops to the border at the request of Trump as a group of thousands of Central American migrants make their way to the U.S., many hoping to claim asylum from violence in their home countries. 

Trump has claimed that several members of the group are violent criminals and belong to gangs, while administration officials have voiced security concerns about some individuals in the caravan.

“Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!” Trump tweeted last month. 

The president has staked several hard-line positions since the caravan formed in Central America, including placing roadblocks in the way of migrants’ requests for asylum.