As images of migrant children fleeing tear gas near the U.S.-Mexico border made rounds Monday, President Donald Trump aimed to use the chaos to attempt to score a political victory.
The government repelled hundreds of migrants who tried to cross illegally near the busy San Ysidro port of entry Sunday, claiming they threw "projectiles" at U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. The Trump administration temporarily shut down the port near San Diego on Sunday, reopening it on Sunday night.
Trump — who has cast many of the asylum-seeking migrants fleeing violence in Central America as violent criminals — seized on the clash Monday as he pushes for Congress to fund his proposed border wall. In a tweet, he called on Mexico to send the migrants to their home countries and threatened to "close the Border permanently if need be." It is not clear that Trump has the power to unilaterally shut down the border, a move that could stifle some commerce.
"Congress, fund the WALL!" he wrote.
Congress is rushing to strike a deal to fund large parts of the government by Dec. 7 to avoid a partial government shutdown. On Thursday, Trump said "there certainly could be" a shutdown over border security as he seeks $5 billion for wall construction in the next fiscal year.
As backlash over the use of tear gas mounts, Trump again finds himself embroiled in an immigration crisis worsened by his administration's actions and marked by visceral images of children suffering. The tactics may only embolden Democrats as Trump tries to secure their votes for one of his top political goals.