The Defense Department says it’s sending 5,200 active duty troops to “harden” the southern border against a migrant caravan making its way through Mexico.
Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy told reporters that 800 soldiers were en route on Monday and that the remainder of the troops would be at the southwest border by the end of the week.
That’s in addition to the more than 2,000 members of the National Guard already providing assistance at the border now. Officials say the troops will provide “mission enhancing capabilities” and will be armed.
The announcement comes as President Donald Trump has been trying to focus on the caravan just a week before the midterm elections.
The migrant caravan has been moving slowly north from Central America and its numbers have been dwindling.
According to the latest plans, some 1,800 troops will go to Texas, 1,700 to Arizona and 1,500 to California, consisting mainly of military police and engineers, with some Marines as well, an official said. They are expected to support border officials by building tents, providing medical support and aiding staff command.
If such figures are correct, it would mean the number of U.S. forces deployed at the border would be larger than those currently in Syria and Iraq, and about half of those in Afghanistan.
Some already have begun to deploy there and most are expected to stay until the middle of December, a Pentagon official said, although a spokesman called figures about troop deployments “premature.”
Earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security officials publicly encouraged would-be asylum seekers to ask for refuge at ports of entry, saying that was the only legal way to apply for asylum at the border.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said officials will devise plans to ensure “we can secure the ports [of entry] to prevent a large group from coming at one time.”
President Donald Trump has vowed that the migrants, who are still about 1,000 miles from the border and number some 4,000 people, won’t be allowed in, according to the New York Post.
He called the situation a “national emergency.”