By Michael Hernandez
President Donald Trump said Thursday his ongoing efforts to roundup and deport undocumented migrants across the country is a "military operation", blurring the lines of America's civilian-led immigration enforcement.
"You see what’s happening at the border, all of a sudden for the first time, we’re getting gang members out, we’re getting drug lords out, we’re getting really bad dudes out of this country," he told reporters at the White House. “And at a rate nobody has ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation.”
While the Department of Homeland Security and its bureaus are in charge of the efforts, the U.S. military is not involved.
Seeking to clarify the American president's words, spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was using the word "military" as an adjective.
"It's happening with precision," he said. "The president was clearly describing the manner in which this was being done."
Trump's comments come during a turbulent period in U.S.-Mexico relations spurned on by the American president’s roundups and promise to construct a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, for which Mexico will pay for, he has claimed.
Reports have suggested Trump may make Mexico "pay for" the wall by appropriating U.S. aid to the country. The roundups could lead to millions of deportations, the bulk of which Mexico would likely receive.
Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said Wednesday that his government would not accept Trump's "unilateral" immigration efforts.
America's top diplomat, Rex Tillerson is currently in Mexico on a trip that is sure to see Mexican officials raise concerns about the wall and the roundups.
Along with Tillerson, Homeland Security Director Gen. John Kelly is in Mexico City seeking to sell Mexican officials on the policies.
The White House on Wednesday denied any tensions, citing "phenomenal" relations with Mexico City.
"There's an unbelievable and robust dialogue between the two nations," spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters.