Trump May Deploy 10 to 15,000 Military Troops at US-Mexico Border
The troop deployment would be the first time that any U.S. president has turned to active duty forces of this magnitude to counter approaching refugees to the U.S. border.
On Tuesday, U.S. Northern Command chief Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy revealed that more troops than the 5,239 already on orders will be deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border. Following the revelation was Trump’s statement on Wednesday that he could deploy anywhere from 10 to 15,000 at the border on top of existing border control. The announcements come as an estimated 3,500 migrants are on their way to the United States border.
“We’ll go up to anywhere between 10 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Control, ICE and everybody else at the border,” Trump said in remarks to reporters at a campaign rally in Florida. “Nobody’s coming in. We’re not allowing people to come in.”
According to Military Times, the troop deployment would be the first time that any U.S. president has turned to active duty forces of this magnitude to counter approaching refugees to the U.S. border. The troops are to be deployed to the border areas in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California.
Militarizing the Border
Normally the National Guard handles immigration influxes as it did from 2006-2008 in Operation Jump Start. The Military Times reported, in that operation, according to the National Guard Bureau’s historical services division, “as many as 6,000 National Guard men and women at any one time participated in the operation … not to close the Nation’s border with Mexico but to make it more secure for legal immigration and commerce.”
In a case where the president requests the services of the National Guard for border duties, it is possible for state governors to turn down the request. A president may then be left with no choice but to deploy the military – a military that is not trained in border control duties. A case in point is when many governors declined to honor the request of President Trump in spring to dispatch the National Guard to the Mexico border.
The few governors that acceded to the request mobilized 2,100 out of the 4,000 requested by Trump and signed off by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
A 1997 incident where U.S. Marines deployed to curtail drug movement across the border but instead shot and killed an American teenager herding goats has increased scrutiny of the use of military troops at the border.
The current mission to secure the border is tagged “Operation Faithful Patriot”. President Trump is asking for only active-duty forces to be deployed for the mission, with the first 1,000 troops stationed in San Antonio, Texas. About 800 more will be deployed to Texas before the week ends. The remaining 3,439 active-duty troops needed to fulfill the first 5,239 batch of desired troops will soon be dispatched to Arizona, California and New Mexico.
As of Monday, the estimated 3,500 immigrants on their way to the U.S. border from Central America were about 1,000 miles away and were approaching largely on foot and caravan. Analysts suppose it will take a few more weeks for them to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is ascertained that before the migrants arrive, all the active-duty troops will have been in position.
As soon as the troops are in position, they will be under the command of U.S. Army North commander Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan. Most of the troops will be engaged in medical, engineering and airlifting services as well as under definite engagement rules when the migrants. According to O’Shaughnessy, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will engage with the migrants most, but a few troops may be armed to handle “incidental interaction” if it occurs.
Border Patrol or Political Statement?
Mark Cancian, a retired Marine and a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Security, told Military Times that “if you start seeing soldier patrols, that is a problem.” He added that it is better to hire trained Border Patrol agents to man the border instead of deploying active-duty troops who are not trained for border security.
Cancian added that he thinks the military deployment has little to do with homeland defense but is rather a political maneuver intended to make a statement from President Trump.
“This isn’t a military activity. This is a political activity,” Cancian said. “And you have to see it through that lens. It’s about politics and perception. The president wants to make a political statement.”