The Pentagon’s apparent rejection, disclosed by unnamed American officials, illustrates the tension in the Trump administration over using military resources to fortify the southern border against illegal immigration.
In a rally ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, President Donald Trump told supporters to “look at what is marching up – that’s an invasion”.
Last week, the US military announced more than 7,000 troops would go to the border with Mexico as a caravan of thousands of central American migrants slowly heads toward the US.
Mexico’s interior ministry estimated over the weekend there are more than 5,000 migrants, from countries including Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, currently moving through southern Mexico either with the caravan or in smaller groups.
The soldiers are being deployed by the Pentagon as part of a mission dubbed Operation Faithful Patriot to “harden” the southern border, supporting the border control and about 2,000 National Guard forces who have already been sent there.
Mr Trump said last Thursday that US troops should treat rocks thrown by migrants as firearms attacks.
“Consider it a rifle,” he said. “When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military police, consider it a rifle.”
But a day later he appeared to row back, telling reporters if agents or soldiers “are going to be hit in the face with rocks, we’re going to arrest those people. That doesn’t mean shoot them”.
Immigration is a big election issue in the midterms, and Mr Trump claimed Democrats encouraged chaos at US borders because it was good politics.
“Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan of illegal aliens into our country,” he said.
A large group of migrants has vowed to push on towards Mexico City as troops began erecting barbed wire fencing.
They have been walking for three weeks and the most gruelling days demand treks of more than 100 miles (160km).
They reached a gymnasium in Cordoba where they held a vote to cover the 178 miles (285km) to Mexico City on Monday by walking and hitching rides.
Many of the people still with the caravan have now covered more than 800 miles (1,200km) since setting off from Honduras on 13 October.
Calls have grown in recent days for buses to transport scores of people from the caravan to the Mexican capital for medical treatment, but no buses have arrived.
Some migrants have broken away from the caravan and gone ahead but many feel their chances of getting into the US are better if they go in numbers.
Many migrants are fleeing gang violence and financial hardship in their home countries.
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