Department of Homeland Security and Pentagon officials announced Monday that they will send 5,200 troops, military helicopters, and razor wire to the US/Mexico border in advance of the potential arrival of a large group of Central American migrants. This troop deployment, according to the Washington Post, appears to be the “largest U.S. active-duty mobilization along the U.S.-Mexico boundary in decades and amounts to a significant militarization of American border security.”
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command, tells reporters that the mobilization, called “Operation Faithful Patriot,” will include three combat engineer battalions, members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and troops who specialize in aviation, medical treatment and logistics, as well as Black Hawk helicopters. The military, he says, will work along with National Guard troops already deployed as well as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and focus first on “hardening” the border in Texas, Arizona, and California. “We’ll be able to spot and identify groups and rapidly deploy CBP personnel where they are needed,” he says.
Kevin K. McAleenan, the CBP commissioner, claims the decision to send troops was not politically-motivated but was a law enforcement necessity. McAleenan says his agency is tracking a group of about 3,500 people moving north through southern Mexico as well as a second group of about 3,000 behind them. “We are preparing for the contingency of large groups of arriving persons in the next several weeks,” he says. “We will not allow a large group to enter the United States in an unsafe and unlawful manner.”
In response to the migrants traveling to the US, President Trump tweeted last week: “To those in the Caravan, turnaround, we are not letting people into the United States illegally. Go back to your Country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!”
Immigrant advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are strongly protesting the decision to send military force and say the migrants are exercising their rights under international and federal laws to request asylum in the US. Many migrants say they are escaping violence and crushing poverty in their home countries. “These migrants need water, diapers and basic necessities — not an army division,” Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the ACLU’s Border Rights Center in El Paso, says in a statement. “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.”