By Joseph Lord
The United States will be sending troops to the southern border with Mexico, the White House announced on May 2.
The move was unveiled ahead of an expected surge of illegal immigrants as pandemic restrictions, known as Title 42, are set to lift on May 11.
The southern border has been hammered over the past two years by an unprecedented influx of illegal immigrants, leaving border control authorities struggling to keep up with limited resources.
Pentagon Press Secretary Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed in a Tuesday press conference that the Pentagon would be sending 1,500 U.S. military personnel “to supplement” Border Patrol resources for 90 days. Ryder suggested this could be extended as the need arises.
These 1,500 troops “will fill critical capability gaps, such as ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry, and warehouse support until CBP [Customs and Border Protection] can address these needs through contracted support.”
“Military personnel will not directly participate in law enforcement activities,” Ryder added.
While the first wave of troops will be drawn from active-duty personnel, Ryder said that the Pentagon was looking into other options, including potentially pulling from reserves.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that the move was made in the hopes of freeing Border Patrol agents up to focus on apprehending illegal immigrants crossing the border.
Under President Donald Trump, military servicemembers performed similar functions at the border. When Trump deployed troops to the border in 2018, Democrats blasted the move as a “politicization” of the military.
In comments to reporters, Jean-Pierre said that the deployment was “common practice.”
“DoD personnel have been supporting [Customs and Border Protection] at the border for almost two decades now,” she said, referring to the Department of Defense.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in a statement Tuesday, said the additional forces would help “to reduce irregular migration, ensure safe, orderly, and efficient processing, and promptly remove individuals without a legal basis to remain in the United States.”
Currently, 2,500 troops are serving in some capacity along the border. The addition of 1,500 new troops, nearly a twofold increase, comes days ahead of the end of Title 42, a COVID-era immigration rule making it easier for illegal aliens to be turned away at the border.
DHS added that Customs and Border Protection’s investment in new technology and personnel will reduce the need for such assistance moving forward.
Despite an unprecedented flow of illegal migrants across the border, the administration has long refrained from using the word “crisis” to describe the situation.
President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have each insisted that the border is secure and under operational control.
Last week, Biden signed an executive order authorizing the administration to activate active-duty forces to combat drug trafficking at the southern border.
The decision to send troops to the border comes as Republicans prepare a series of legislation addressing immigration problems along the border.
Last month, House Republicans introduced a bill that would require the Biden administration to resume construction on a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Another GOP bill was unveiled today aimed at strengthening the enforcement of immigration law at the southern border.