WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States could send as many as 15,000 troops to the border with Mexico, as he hardens his stance against a caravan of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
"As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out...we'll go up to anywhere between 10 and 15,000 military personnel, on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border," Trump told reporters at the White House.
The Trump administration on Monday put the number of troops it aimed to send to the border at over 5,200.
Trump has sought to use immigration as an issue to motivate Republican voters ahead of the Nov. 6 elections next week, where Republicans will seek to maintain control on both congressional chambers.
As a presidential candidate before the U.S. election in 2016, Trump promised to harden immigration laws and build a wall along the southern border with Mexico, but implementation of his signature campaign promise has been slow.
A caravan of Central American migrants estimated to number at least 3,500 people left Honduras in mid-October and is now in southern Mexico on its way to the U.S. border.
Trump's tough response to the caravan has been an issue in the congressional elections. Democrats accuse the president of stoking fears of illegal immigration to help Republicans win votes.
The Pentagon has said it has identified about 7,000 active-duty troops, including about 2,000 on standby, that could be deployed to the southern border.
The Defense Department has not said what the scope of the mission will be or its assessment of any threat posed by the migrants.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)