The Defense Department announced on Tuesday that it will deploy 1,500 active-duty servicemembers to the southwestern U.S. border in anticipation of a sharp increase in migrants. In addition to roughly 2,500 National Guard troops already stationed at the border, the new service members will perform a limited support role for Customs and Border Protection agents.
This role will include detection and monitoring on the ground, data entry, or support at CBP facilities. The Department of Homeland Security requested the additional support.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters that the department was “actively pursuing” other options for military support to the border patrol. This includes activating reservists who could take over for the active-duty troops after their 90-day deployment ends.
Ryder said that “Military personnel will not directly participate in law enforcement activities.” This deployment to the border is consistent with other forms of military support to DHS over many years.
Homeland Security made the request “in light of the changes on May 11 and the anticipated surge,” referring to Title 42, a policy enacted by then-President Donald Trump that grants authority to the U.S. government to bypass procedures in order to expel migrants in the country illegally.
That policy is set to expire on May 11 – as are the national emergency and public health emergency declarations that Trump first issued in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which President Joe Biden extended until that date.
Top CBP official Troy Miller told Congress in April that his agency anticipates more than 10,000 migrants will attempt to cross the southern U.S. border every day after May 11, more than doubling the number of attempted border crossings in recent months. Each president since George H.W. Bush has relied on the military to assist with border control missions, typically turning to National Guard units that are specifically trained for such missions.
Biden’s Republican critics seized on Tuesday’s announcement of the troop deployment as further evidence of what they consider insufficient preparation by the White House to address a foreseeable immigration crisis. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that “This decision is just another example of the Biden administration planning poorly for a crisis that has been long in the making.”
Wicker believes that President Biden should have taken the immigration crisis seriously and that it is time to return to the strong border policies of the previous administration and work now to finish the wall, support law enforcement, and target the cartels.
However, the military deployment is only part of the administration’s broader plan to address the surge in migrants. Last week, the Biden administration announced that it would begin processing asylum-seekers who were forced to remain in Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols.
The administration is also considering changes to the Central American Minors program, which could allow more children from Central America to reunite with family members already in the U.S. Furthermore, the White House has also proposed billions of dollars in aid to Central American countries to help address the root causes of migration.
In summary, the U.S. military is being deployed to the southwestern border to provide additional support to Customs and Border Protection agents. The Department of Homeland Security requested the additional support, citing anticipated surges of migrants following the expiration of Title 42, a policy enacted by President Trump.
While Republicans have criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the immigration crisis, the administration has also announced other measures to address the issue, including the processing of asylum-seekers and proposed aid to Central American countries to address the root causes of migration.
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