By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) – The Pentagon is prepared to provide additional financial support for the Trump administration's controversial southern border wall, according to the U.S. defense secretary.
"The first priority of the DOD [Department of Defense] is the protection of the homeland. So the southwest border is a security issue," said Mark Esper, when asked by reporters if the Trump administration will transfer part of its 2020 defense budget for building the wall on the Mexican border.
"And so we'll see how things play out, but we remain committed to supporting the Department of Homeland Security and its mission," he told a press conference alongside his Japanese counterpart on Tuesday, following their meeting.
Asked whether that support would be financial, Esper stressed: "If that's what it takes, we are prepared to support."
Last week a federal appeals court in Louisiana ruled the government could use $3.6 billion in military funds to construct border barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border — a decision hailed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The border wall was one of Trump's most prominent campaign promises, a pledge to help keep undocumented immigrants out of the country, but the last three years have seen little progress in Trump’s signature project.
Droves of migrants from Central American countries try each year to cross the treacherous deserts and rivers on the way to the U.S. in a bid to flee violence and poverty in their home countries.
Trump has pursued a hardline approach to immigration, both legal and illegal, since coming to the office.
As part of its anti-immigration policy, Washington also signed a safe third-country agreement with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
The agreement forces Central American migrants to apply for asylum and be processed in a third country before they can seek asylum in the U.S., even though under U.S. laws migrants are allowed to apply for asylum within the U.S. or at official ports of entry.
Although Mexico rejected the deal, it reached another one last June with the U.S. following a tariff which obligates the country to reduce its immigration flow.