Just one week shy of the midterm elections, the Pentagon will deploy at least 5,200 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to prevent members of a migrant caravan from illegally entering the country, the Department of Defense announced Monday.
About 2,100 National Guard troops already were fanned out across the border under an order from President Donald Trump this year. In recent weeks, the president has been warning repeatedly about the dangers posed by the caravan of mostly Central American migrants, which stands at about 3,500 people after 1,700 of them filed asylum applications in Mexico or accepted assistance to return to their home countries.
Administration officials said last week that they were considering a plan to send up to 1,000 active-duty troops to the border, but that deployment, dubbed Operation Faithful Patriot, will now surpass 5,200, said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command. He said the number of troops could rise depending on the demands placed on U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents manning the border.
“That is just the start of this operation,” O’Shaughnessy said during a news conference at CBP headquarters in Washington on Monday. “Border security is national security.”
The troops will not conduct law enforcement activities, but some will be armed as they provide support to Border Patrol agents along the border.
National Guard units have already been assisting by monitoring video surveillance feeds to direct Border Patrol agents manning the vast stretches between U.S. ports of entry. The new deployment of active-duty troops will include helicopter and other aviation units armed with night vision technology to help identify anyone trying to illegally cross the border, and to deploy CBP agents to apprehend them, O’Shaughnessy said.
“We will be able to spot and identify groups, and rapidly deploy,” he said.
The operation will also include engineering units to build temporary barriers, lay out concertina wire at ports of entry, and construct temporary housing for U.S. personnel, he said. About 800 troops are already en route to Texas from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, and more will follow this week headed toward Arizona and California.