The Biden administration has deployed 1,500 active-duty military personnel to the southern border to aid in curbing the chaotic border invasion. However, the Department of Homeland Security has stated that the troops will not be interacting with migrants but will help free up border security agents by assisting with “warehouse support and data entry” tasks. Over the last week, officials have reported more than 8,000 arrests occurring at the border per day, with many more illegals evading capture and going unreported. As Title 42 is set to expire on May 11, many fear the current administration is ill-prepared to handle the scope of the wave of illegal migration still yet to take place.
By Alex Horton & Nick Miroff; May 2, 2023
The Biden administration will send 1,500 additional troops to augment security at the southern border, U.S. officials said Tuesday, as the looming end of pandemic-era immigration policies has officials bracing for a surge in illegal crossings.
The Department of Homeland Security said that it requested the 90-day deployment and that Defense Department personnel sent to the border will not interact with migrants. Instead, they will support U.S. Customs and Border Protection by performing “non-law enforcement duties” that include monitoring sensors and cameras, as well as “data entry and warehouse support,” according to a DHS statement.
“DoD personnel have never, and will not, perform law enforcement activities or interact with migrants or other individuals in DHS custody,” the statement said. “This support will free up DHS law enforcement personnel to perform their critical law enforcement missions.”
The additional 1,500 active-duty troops will join 2,500 National Guard troops who are already deployed along the U.S. southern border. The figures do not include the Texas National Guard members mobilized for a state-led mission called Operation Lone Star.
Some of the U.S. military forces will begin to arrive as soon as May 10, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters. Active-duty Army and Marine Corps units will be deployed, Ryder said.
Ryder did not say which units would be mobilized, but said the Pentagon was exploring options to replace them with reservist troops and send the active-duty troops home.
It is unusual to dispatch active-duty troops on domestic missions. The military’s border mission has largely been carried out by the National Guard, which has broader authorities to work on U.S. soil.
The Pentagon has had some concerns about supplying service members for what has become an annual commitment to DHS, including the impact it has on units available to deploy on combat missions. The upcoming mission “will not affect readiness,” Ryder said.
The mobilization was first reported by Fox News.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre played down the significance of the troop request during Tuesday’s briefing to reporters.
“DOD personnel have been supporting CBP at the border for almost two decades now,” she said. “So this is a common practice.”
Some immigration advocacy groups criticized the use of troops along the border, while other observers saw the deployment as a sign the administration is not prepared for the pandemic restrictions to lift.
“Deploying military personnel suggests a concerning lack of readiness for this transition,” said Andrea Flores, a former Biden aide who is now an immigration adviser to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
DHS “had over two years to plan a gradual wind down of Title 42,” Flores wrote on Twitter. “Instead, the situation has escalated into a greater emergency that will, once again, lead to troops in border communities.”New surge of migrants strains U.S. capacity ahead of May 11 deadline
U.S. officials are expecting illegal crossings to surpass 10,000 per day when the pandemic-era border policy known as Title 42 ends May 11. The number of migrants being taken into custody per day is already near record levels, with agents making 6,000 to 8,000 arrests per day over the past week.
Many of the migrants are Venezuelans who have been crossing the Rio Grande in the areas of Brownsville, Tex., and El Paso.
About 21,000 migrants from Venezuela have crossed in the Brownsville area over the past two weeks, according to Lt. Chris Olivarez, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety. Many crossed the Rio Grande using cheap pool toys and inflatable mattresses, Olivarez said in an interview.
“It’s a very dangerous situation, especially when you have children crossing,” he said.
The uptick has left Border Patrol stations and temporary holding facilitates stretched far beyond capacity. For instance, CBP had 4,748 migrants in custody in the El Paso sector Tuesday morning, more than twice the average number of migrants held daily during March, according to the latest federal data.
When the volume of people crossing the border is too overwhelming for U.S. agents and holding capacity, the government has been forced to quickly release migrants into the United States with instructions to report to immigration authorities in their destination cities.
Homeland Security officials say they have been preparing for 18 months for the pandemic controls to expire, and will have additional detention capacity and personnel ready for the anticipated influx. They plan to ramp up fast-track deportations and have been negotiating with the government of Mexico to be able to send some migrants back across the border if they are deemed ineligible for U.S. asylum but their home countries won’t take them back.
The Title 42 measures were put in place at the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, giving U.S. border agents the ability to rapidly expel migrants back to their home countries or to Mexico. Since then federal authorities have used the measures to carry out more than 2.6 million expulsions.
President Biden has faced pressure from immigrant advocates and some Democrats to end the restrictions and restore full access to the U.S. immigration system for asylum seekers. But previous attempts by the administration to lift Title 42 were blocked in federal court after Republican state officials sued the administration, arguing a migrant surge will strain their budgets.
Barring a last-minute court ruling, standard immigration rules at the border will once more be in effect starting May 12.
Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP