President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he could send up to 15,000 troops to the U.S. border — nearly triple the 5,200 announced by the Defense Department, and nearly triple the number authorized to serve in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for a campaign rally in Florida, Trump insisted that he is “not fear-mongering” by dispatching military forces to dissuade members of a migrant caravan from trying to come into the United States.
“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. Nobody’s coming in,” he said, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Immigration, he added, is a “very big and dangerous topic.”
Trump also claimed that the population of undocumented immigrants is two or three times the 2014 figure estimated by the Department of Homeland Security.
“We now have 25-30 million in this country illegally, not going to allow it, dangerous and unfair,” he said. “With that being said, I want people to come into our country, but they have to come legally and through merit.”
Homeland Security estimated that there were 12.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in 2014, the most recent year for which official figures are available. A Yale study released last month suggested that there could be as many as 22 million undocumented immigrants in America, but its conclusions were challenged even by advocates for reducing immigration.
Just a week after George Soros, a Democratic activist and donor, received one of numerous mail bombs allegedly sent by a Trump supporter, the president said he thinks it’s possible Soros is funding the caravan of migrants — a claim for which there is no evidence.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Trump said when asked whether Soros could be providing resources for the caravan. “A lot of people say yes.”
This article originally appeared on NBC