WASHINGTON    -     Tensions are rising, fingers are pointing and the search for solutions is becoming increasingly fraught. Overwhelmed by an influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border that is taxing the immigration system, President Donald Trump is grasping for something — anything — to stem the tide.

Trump, who campaigned on a promise to secure the border, has thrown virtually every option his aides have been able to think of at the problem, to little avail. He has sent out the military, signed an emergency declaration to fund a border wall and threatened to completely seal the southern border. On Thursday he added a new threat, warning of hefty tariffs on cars made in Mexico if the country doesn’t abide by his demands.

Now, with the encouragement of an influential aide and with his re-election campaign on the horizon, Trump is looking at personnel changes as he tries to shift blame elsewhere.

The first move was made Thursday, when the White House unexpectedly pulled back the nomination of Ron Vitiello to permanently lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where he had been acting director. The abrupt reversal was encouraged by top Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller and seen by some as part of a larger effort to bring on aides who share Miller’s hard-line immigration views.

President Donald Trump says his administration is ensuring the country knows “this is an actual emergency” at the U.S.-Mexico border. (April 5)

 “We may go a different way. We may have to go a very tough way,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox & Friends Weekend” that aired Saturday.

An empowered Miller is also eyeing the removal of Lee Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs the legal immigration system, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal staffing matters. The White House did not respond to questions Friday about whether Trump was on board with that plan.

Trump has become increasingly exasperated at his inability to do more to halt the swelling numbers of migrants entering the country. Aides, too, have complained they are stymied by regulatory guardrails, legal limitations and a Congress that has scoffed at the president’s requests for legislative changes.

“There is indeed an emergency on our southern border,” Trump said Friday during a visit to the southern border in Calexico, California, where his frustration was evident. “It’s a colossal surge and it’s overwhelming our immigration system, and we can’t let that happen. So, as I say, and this is our new statement: The system is full. Can’t take you anymore.”

Immigration experts say Trump’s own immigration policies have caused so much chaos along the border that they may be encouraging illegal crossings. The furor over family separations last summer helped to highlight the fact that families won’t be detained for long in the U.S. if they’re detained at all. And metering, in which people are asked to return to a busy port of entry on another day to seek asylum, may have encouraged asylum-seekers to cross illegally, said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

“This policy chaos, coupled with a sense that the U.S. government may at some point really shut down the border, has generated an urgency to migrate now while it is still possible,” he said.

Whatever the reasons for the migrant surge, there is a growing consensus that federal border resources are overwhelmed. While illegal border crossings are still down sharply from their peak in 2000, they have nonetheless reached a 12-year high. While most illegal border-crossers used to be single Mexican nationals coming to the U.S. in search of work, more than half are now parents and children who have traveled from Central America to seek refuge in the U.S.

Those families, along with unaccompanied children, are subject to specific laws and court settlements that prevent them from being immediately sent back to their home countries. Immigrant processing and holding centers have been overwhelmed, forcing officials to dramatically expand a practice Trump has long mocked as “catch and release.”

Indeed, ICE has set free more than 125,000 people who came into the U.S. as families since late last year and is now busing people hundreds of miles inland, releasing them at Greyhound stations and churches in cities like Albuquerque, San Antonio and Phoenix because towns close to the border already have more than they can handle.