Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Wednesday warned migrants traveling north through Central America as part of the latest caravan that they will not be allowed into the U.S., and that the safety of Americans is the priority -- amid reports of violence from members of the caravan.
“Being part of a large group, like a caravan, provides no special treatment or benefits to those who participate. Unfortunately, there have been acts of reported violence by some involved in this caravan,” Wolf said in a statement. "The Department is prioritizing the safety and security of our officers and the American people."
“Should any members of the caravan reach the U.S-Mexico border, they will be processed accordingly and quickly removed, returned or repatriated,” he said.
The statement comes after Mexican police clashed with hundreds of migrants trying to get into the country from Guatemala on Monday. Tear gas was fired on the migrants as they hurled rocks at Mexico's national guard militarized police, Reuters reported.
“You have two options: You go back to Guatemalan territory or you come with us,” Mexican immigration agents reportedly said to migrants who had crossed a river at the border between the two countries.
At least 4,000 people have entered Guatemala from Honduras since last Wednesday, according to Guatemalan authorities.
Wolf has repeatedly said that the U.S. is equipped to deal with caravans such as this one, noting that it is much smaller than the caravans that were coming north in 2018 and early 2019.
Since then, the administration has almost entirely ended "catch-and-release" -- the process by which migrants who are detained at the border are released into the U.S. to await their asylum hearings. By doing so, officials say it ends a key “pull factor” that had been tempting migrants to make the dangerous journey north.
It has done so in part by a series of agreements with regional countries. The U.S. has significantly expanded the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico” policy, whereby migrants are returned to Mexico to await their asylum hearings. Mexico has also increased National Guard forces at both its northern and southern borders as part of an agreement with the U.S.
In addition, DHS has penned asylum agreements with Northern Triangle countries such as Guatemala, whereby migrants can be sent there to claim asylum instead of the U.S. Additional agreements with El Salvador and Honduras are going into effect.
At home, the U.S. is also implementing a rule that migrants that have previously passed through a country designated as safe without claiming asylum would not be eligible for asylum in the U.S. It’s part of a crackdown that has seen apprehensions at the border plummet by more than 70 percent since May.
In his statement Wednesday, Wolf praised the Mexican government's efforts increasing security at their southern border, saying it has been effective and maintained the border’s integrity “despite outbreaks of violence and lawlessness by people who are attempting to illegally enter Mexico on their way to the United States.”
He said that DHS is monitoring the progress of the latest caravan and that personnel is on the ground in Central America helping local officials -- something he said has “already led to hundreds of individuals being stopped, apprehended and sent back to their home countries.”
Fox News’ Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.