President Trump told reporters outside the White House on Wednesday that he’s planning to “go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border.”
While Trump vowed that Central American migrants are “not coming into our country,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan confirmed Monday that there is no change in how arrivals are lawfully able to claim asylum at the border and enter that process of adjudication.
Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters Tuesday that just over a thousand troops were already at the Texas-Mexico border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot, and “that number will go to about — in Texas, about 1,800 that’ll actually be moved from seven installations in Texas.”
“We also have about 870 that are part of our headquarters there that are part of the overall effort that will be engaged in this effort from command and control,” he added.
The troop mobilization, requested by the Department of Homeland Security in response to the latest caravan of Central American migrants moving slowly through southern Mexico, joins the 2,092 National Guard troops already on the border for Operation Guardian Support.
“What you’ll also see over the upcoming days is we’re going to have similar movements to Arizona and California. And so when you put those together, the Texas, Arizona, California, similar type movements, we’re going to get to 5,200,” the general said of the active-duty deployment.
O’Shaughnessy stressed that Defense Secretary James Mattis “has made it very clear that we are able to train, we are able to ensure that every airman, soldier, sailor, and Marine going there fully understands the rules for the use of force.” The military is also working with Customs and Border Protection, he said, “to have training venues that will work with CBP to ensure that we fully understand each other’s rules for the use of force.”
“I firmly believe that border security is national security,” the commander said. “And with that in mind that we are in support of Secretary Nielsen in her efforts to secure the border.”
The departments of Homeland Security and Defense said in a joint statement last week that the DoD would provide “planning assistance, engineering support (temporary barriers, barricades, and fencing), fixed and rotary wing aviation support to move CBP personnel, medical teams to triage, treat and prepare for commercial transport of patients, command and control facilities, temporary housing for CBP personnel, and personal protective equipment for CBP personnel.”
At a joint news conference with O’Shaughnessy on Monday, McAleenan said about 3,500 migrants were near the Chiapas-Oaxaca state borders in southern Mexico, about 1,600 miles from the U.S. border. He said another group of about 3,000 migrants, generally composed of families and unaccompanied children, was at the Guatemala-Mexico border.
Asked what those legally asking for asylum will face when they reach the border, McAleenan said that “under existing law and policy we’ll process people that we apprehend crossing illegally or arriving and presenting lawfully but without documents at our ports of entry, the same way we’re doing currently.”
“You can only process a certain number of people at a time, even if they’re presenting lawfully,” McAleenan said, adding that the U.S. government “would want to work with the government of Mexico if this group does make it all the way to border.”
He is already encouraging Central American migrants to seek asylum in Mexico first.
“For those that seek to make an asylum claim safely and lawfully at a port of entry, the government of Mexico has already offered you protection and employment authorization,” McAleenan said. “While CBP and its DHS partners processed over 38,000 inadmissible persons claiming fear to return to their home country safely and efficiently at our ports of entry last year, there’s no benefit to be part of a large group.”