Trump says he may 'call up more military' to border

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE said Wednesday he may send more troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to deal with the spike in migrant families entering the country.

“I’m going to have to call up more military,” Trump said during an impromptu appearance at a Texas political fundraiser with people who said they have dealt firsthand with the surge in migration.

A further increase in U.S. troops at the border is the latest in a string of controversial proposals the Trump administration has floated to address what it calls a crisis the southern border.

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Roughly 2,350 active-duty troops were at the border as of January, when acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanNew Defense chief: Our 'priorities remain unchanged' The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions MORE announced plans to send back thousands more and extend their deployment through September. Trump first deployed troops to the border last fall to assist Border Patrol in addressing a migrant caravan traveling from Central America.

Trump lamented that troops are limited to support roles and are barred by law from apprehending migrants, saying, “Our military, don’t forget, can’t act like a military would act because if they got a little rough, everybody would go crazy.”

Even though the president said his focus on immigration has “has nothing to do with politics,” he bashed Democrats for refusing to pass stricter laws and predicted the issue would be a major factor in his reelection race.

“I think they will pay a very big price in 2020 for all of the things, whether it is the fake witch hunt they start out or whether it is a situation like this,” he said, referring to the Russia investigation. “I think the border is going to be an incredible issue.”

The president answered reporters’ questions after listening to stories from fundraiser attendees who said they have had run-ins with human traffickers or have had migrants found dead on their ranches.

Trump drew intense criticism when he announced his 2016 presidential bid for saying Mexico was sending rapists and criminals to the U.S., but he said Wednesday the ranchers’ stories were far worse.

“That turned out to be nothing compared to what happens on those journeys up. Nothing. My speech was so tame, as it turned out,” the president said.

Trump rattled many fellow Republicans by pushing out Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Trump admin program sends asylum-seekers to await claims in Mexico, despite fears of violence: report MORE over his frustration with the situation at the border, part of a broad effort to overhaul the department’s leadership.

White House immigration adviser Stephen Miller, who is seen as being behind the purge, is also pushing a raft of hard-line proposals intended to stem the flow of Central American migrants, including making it harder to seek asylum and making it possible to detain children for longer periods of time.

Trump earlier this year declared a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build a wall along the southern border and threatened to close down the border entirely to prevent illegal entry. Privately, he reportedly pushed officials to resume family separations, but on Tuesday he denied doing so.