US deploys 1,500 active-duty troops to southern border amid migration wave
Washington – The Biden administration is deploying 1,500 active-duty soldiers to the southern border to provide operational support to US immigration officials as they deal with a sharp increase in migrant crossings ahead of the end ofthe Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday.
Service members will be deployed for 90 days and will not be tasked with law enforcement duties such as detaining or processing migrants, said Brigadier General Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman. Instead, the military units will play a support role, assisting with transportation, administrative tasks, narcotics detection, data entry, and camp support.
The deployment, approved by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, was requested by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which said the move was justified by “an expected increase in migration.” In a statement Tuesday, the department said the presence of additional military units would “free up” border officials to “carry out their critical law enforcement missions.”
Military personnel, DHS stressed, “never have and will never conduct law enforcement or interact with migrants.” An 1878 federal law prohibits the military from engaging in civilian law enforcement in general.
The move to send military units to the southern border is intended to ease the pressure on Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, who are preparing for a sharp increase in border crossings once they can no longer identify migrants under Title 42, the public health restriction , which was first issued in March 2020. The policy is scheduled to end on May 11, once the national COVID-19 public health emergency expires.
Troy Miller, the CBP’s top official, recently told Congress that his agency is preparing for up to 10,000 migrants to cross the southern border each day after Title 42 ends, nearly doubling the daily average in March. The number of daily migrant arrivals has already risen to over 7,000 in recent days.
The military has been asked to assist US border officials on numerous occasions since 2006 under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Former President Donald Trump’s administration authorized dozens of high-profile and often controversial operations as part of a broader crackdown on illegal border crossings.
Late last month, President Biden granted the Pentagon emergency authorization to assist Homeland Security officials in fighting international drug trafficking.
Around 2,500 National Guard soldiers are already on the southern border to support CBP. A US official said their mission will remain unchanged with the new deployment.
Nancy Cordes, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson contributed coverage.