In response to a request from the Biden administration, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has agreed to deploy 1,500 US soldiers to the Mexico border, but their role will be limited to administrative tasks. As Title 42 is set to expire next week, these military personnel will support Border Patrol agents by filling in crucial gaps in capabilities, including ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry, and warehouse assistance, for a period of 90 days.
The Department of Homeland Security had asked the Pentagon for assistance to prepare for a potential surge of migrants once Title 42 expires on May 11. These active-duty units will be primarily responsible for logistical duties, rather than enforcement, thereby enabling Border Patrol to concentrate its resources on preventing tens of thousands of illegal border crossings.
According to Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the military personnel being sent to the Mexico border will not be involved in law enforcement activities. Instead, they will provide logistical support to the Department of Homeland Security, which is consistent with the military’s support for DHS in the past. The service members will start arriving in the border region on May 10 and will be armed but only permitted to use their weapons in self-defense.
Although White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that troops have been sent to the border for nearly two decades, such forces are typically drawn from the National Guard. The deployment of active-duty troops domestically is unusual. The Pentagon decided to send active-duty forces instead of reserve units to the border to get them there more quickly, given the short timeframe of just one week.
Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder stated that the decision to send active-duty forces to the Mexico border was made because of the need to respond quickly. It is essential to have the ability to provide support from active-duty forces in a timely manner. Activating reserve component forces takes time, so by deploying active-duty forces, the request from the Department of Homeland Security could be urgently addressed.
The Pentagon is still considering other options, such as deploying reserve units or hiring contractors, to enable the return of the active-duty forces to their home stations. This announcement followed President Biden’s executive order signed last Thursday, which authorized the deployment of active-duty and reserve military and Coast Guard personnel to combat international drug trafficking.
The Biden administration’s authority to deploy troops to address international drug trafficking came from a national emergency declaration made by Biden on December 15, 2021, citing the threat posed to national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the United States by international drug trafficking.
Following the issuance of this order, the Department of Homeland Security requested the assistance of the Defense Department in sending troops to the Southern border. Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that DHS asked for the support in response to the anticipated surge of migrants when Title 42 ends on May 11.
Currently, approximately 2,500 US military personnel, who are National Guard forces, are deployed to support Customs and Border Protection with detection, monitoring, and aviation support. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) criticized the deployment, arguing that using troops to perform administrative tasks will only facilitate the entry of more illegal immigrants into the country.
In the past few days, the Border Patrol has documented tens of thousands of illegal crossings at the southern border as the enforcement period for Title 42 comes to an end. The Washington Post recently reported that roughly 40,000 asylum-seekers are waiting in Juarez, Mexico to enter the US via El Paso once the policy is no longer enforced. Former El Paso Mayor Dee Margo welcomed the deployment of troops, saying that the CBP needs all the help it can get. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz reported that, in the three days preceding Monday, agents had made 22,220 arrests, including a convicted murderer, two sex offenders, and one gang member.
The southern border has seen tens of thousands of migrants crossing illegally as the Title 42 enforcement period is coming to an end. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz stated that agents have apprehended over 22,000 migrants in the past three days, along with the seizure of drugs and firearms. DHS has requested troops from the Department of Defense to assist in the efforts to manage the situation at the border, which has been criticized by some lawmakers who claim the crisis has been deliberately created by the Biden administration.
Trump’s administration had also deployed troops at the southern border to counter a caravan of migrants, but the move was criticized by Democrats. Biden has continued to keep thousands of troops deployed at the southern border and has introduced new policies aimed at processing migrants and reducing the number of illegal crossings. The deployment of troops could suggest that the administration sees the border issue as a major threat to national security.