The Biden Administration will send 1,500 troops to the southern border of the U.S. to support immigration authorities facing tens of thousands of migrants expected to surge into the country once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, U.S. officials said.
At the request of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. service members will be sent on a 90-day temporary deployment assisting in detection, data entry, and warehouse work, officials said. The troops will not carry out law-enforcement duties such as detaining or processing migrants, according to the officials.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday the government is bracing for a record tide of migration across the southern border when pandemic restrictions, known as Title 42, end on May 11. The Trump-era authorities prevented migrants from requesting asylum and allowed U.S. border agents to quickly expel migrants out of public-health concerns.
Mayorkas emphasized the immigration system was stretched thin on resources and made a public case for federal relief.“I just want to be clear that we are working within significant constraints,” he said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “We need people. We need technology. We need facilities. We need transportation resources—all of the elements of addressing the needs of a large population of people arriving irregularly at our southern border.”
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Troy Miller told Congress last month his agency is preparing for about 10,000 migrant crossings every day once Title 42 ends. President Joe Biden signed an executive order April 27 to call-up active-duty troops to combat international drug trafficking, officials said. The DHS then formally asked for the Pentagon’s support, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to approve Tuesday.
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Currently, there are about 2,500 troops—members of the National Guard on active-duty orders—deployed along the 2,000-mile-long southwest border supporting CBP’s efforts. For years, U.S. forces have monitored “Mobile Surveillance Cameras” in all nine border sectors in each of the four states bordering Mexico. The devices are armed with infrared cameras, enabling service members to watch for illegal border crossings day or night.
If the new troop deployments extend beyond the 90 days it will likely raise questions on Capitol Hill. Both parties expressed concern about the military’s entanglement in White House migration policy in 2019, when the Trump Administration tasked the Pentagon with carrying out a range of missions, including aerial reconnaissance, ground surveillance, search and rescue support, medical support, engineering support, helicopter transportation, personnel protection and other needs.