At least 5,200 military troops will be deployed to the U.S. border with Mexico by the end of the week, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense officials confirmed Monday afternoon.
The troops are in addition to the 2,000 National Guard members who have been in place since April. They are being sent in response to the caravan of Central American migrants that are slowly making their way to the United States after crossing Mexico’s southern border earlier this month.
“Make no mistakes, as we sit right here today, we have 800 soldiers that are on their way to Texas right now,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command, during a press conference.
O’Shaughnessy said that number could change, depending on whether the situation dictates a change in strategy. O’Shaughnessy foretold of an operation that is likely to be very different from the current National Guard activity, which mainly happens behind the scenes and assists federal Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol agents.
In addition to the boots on the ground, the country’s military is also preparing to deploy three helicopter companies that can transport CBP officials in a moment’s notice. Mobile command and medical units are also at the ready, as is enough barbed wire to build up to 22 miles of makeshift barrier, with another 150 miles still available.
“We have combined command posts where our operational commanders will be working side by side to integrate our efforts and make,” O’Shaughnessy.
The military build-up, which was first reported by Reuters Monday morning, comes as President Donald Trump moves ahead with the notion that criminals and Middle Easterners have infiltrated the caravan, which started out with more than 7,000 migrants but has reduced in size this month. He has presented no evidence to support that claim.
The American Civil Liberties Union immediately blasted the move as nothing more than a costly and unnecessary political ploy.
“Sending active military forces to our southern border is not only a huge waste of taxpayer money, but an unnecessary course of action that will further terrorize and militarize our border communities,” Shaw Drake, the policy counsel for the ACLU Border Rights Center in El Paso, said in a statement. “ Military personnel are legally prohibited from engaging in immigration enforcement, and there is no emergency or cost-benefit analysis to justify this sudden deployment.”
Author: JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune