Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) suggested that President Donald Trump might have to declare martial law along the southern border of the United States to prevent a large group of Central American refugees and migrants from entering the country.
Gohmert appeared Tuesday on the “Todd Starnes Radio Show,” a Fox News program, to discuss the so-called migrant caravan, a group of thousands of migrants currently en route to the United States to seek asylum or residence.
Starnes called the group of mostly Honduran nationals a “mob.”
“If, in fact, this mob heads towards California, what’s gonna happen then?” Starnes asked Gohmert. “Because [Democratic governor] Jerry Brown will welcome them. You know it’s a sanctuary state. Do you think the president will allow that to happen?”
“I don’t think the president will allow that to happen,” Gohmert replied, suggesting that Trump could send troops to the borders over Brown’s objections and that the California governor would be committing treason by aiding the migrants.
“This has got to be so massive, I mean, you might have to declare martial law along the border,” Gohmert said. “And the Democrats have been to stupid to realize that encouraging this caravan they may actually empower the president to do things they never wanted.”
When Starnes asked Gohmert what “martial law” would look like, the congressman responded that it would mean “federal troops coming in and being at the border, and if anyone tried to stop them, they could be dealt with.”
“You would probably need federal law enforcement to be there to arrest any Americans who might try to stop it,” he elaborated. “The military needs to have their weapons pointed towards Mexico and not toward the American people, but it may be that we have to have enough federal law enforcement, and maybe we have to have the National Guard if Jerry Brown is going to force the issue ― but I hope and pray he won’t be so stupid as to try to stop the U.S. government from enforcing our border because then we’re talking treasonous-type acts.”
“This has got to be so massive, I mean, you might have to declare martial law along the border.”
Gohmert’s martial law suggestion is part of the GOP’s hyperbolic response to the group of migrants. As the United States midterm elections approach on Nov. 6, Republican politicians and Trump have framed the caravan as a massive security threat and have accused Democrats of funding the migrants, though they’ve offered no evidence for that assertion.
The migrants have also become a source of conspiracy theories and a target of xenophobic vitriol. Trump alleged without proof that “unknown Middle Easterners” were among them, while Vice President Mike Pence cited false statistics about terrorist arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The caravan, which left Honduras earlier this month, is growing as more people join the loosely associated group rather than risk traveling alone. The migrants are currently over 1,000 miles from the U.S. and could take months to reach the border. Their exact route is unclear.
Gohmert’s off-the-wall remark about martial law is one of the GOP’s most extreme responses to the caravan. Yet it’s not an unfamiliar topic for him: In 2015, Gohmert said he understood conspiracy theorists’ claims that President Barack Obama was secretly planning to declare martial law and send the military to occupy Southern states and put residents in detention camps. The so-called Jade Helm conspiracy theory, embraced by the alt-right, held that military exercises were a cover for a nefarious government plot.
In his interview with Starnes, Gohmert characterized the migrant group as full of violent “gangbangers” and said he had faith that Trump would prevent the group from entering the U.S.
“I just know the president is going to come through with flying colors,” he said.