The Trump administration will deploy some 2,100 more troops to help “secure the southern land border of the United States,” the Defense Department said in a statement on Wednesday night.
Up to 1,000 of the troops will be members of the Texas National Guard. About 750 of them will assist the Department of Homeland Security “with operational, logistical, and administrative support” at “temporary adult migrant holding facilities” in Donna and Tornillo, Texas, according to the Pentagon statement. “Migrants will be supervised by DHS law enforcement personnel,” it added.
Another 250 members of the guard force would be stationed at ports of entry along the border. About 1,100 active duty members of the armed forces would also be deployed in various roles, the Pentagon said. As of July 8, there were about 4,000 service members at the border, the Pentagon said on Wednesday night.
The announcement comes amid continuing rancorous debate regarding Trump’s immigration policies and the treatment of undocumented migrants who have been apprehended while trying to cross into the US.
The Defense Department has been pulled into the fray: More and more troops are being sent to the border, and Trump wants to use Pentagon funds to construct more than 100 miles of fencing along it.
The department said the new deployments had been approved by Acting Secretary of Defense Richard Spencer. The department has not had a permanent secretary since Jim Mattis resigned late last year. President Donald Trump has nominated Mark Esper for the post, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has been considering his nomination this week.
Trump has focused on cracking down on undocumented immigration — one of his signature issues — for weeks as his 2020 re-election campaign gets underway. He prodded Mexico to take steps to block migrants from crossing into the U.S. after threatening the country with tariffs on goods last month.
Earlier this week, he moved to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants who cross the southern border. The Justice Department and Homeland Security said the change was made because the asylum system is being abused. But the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups quickly filed suit to block the rule.
About 6,000 active-duty U.S. troops were deployed to the Mexican border last October, with Trump saying they were needed to address a “national emergency” as caravans of asylum-seeking Central American migrants made their way toward the U.S.