Pen­tagon plans to dis­patch 800more troops to border

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS - By Dan Lamothe and David Naka­mura

WASH­ING­TON » The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is ex­pected to de­ploy ad­di­tional U.S. troops to as­sist in se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions at the south­ern border in re­sponse to a car­a­van of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants trav­el­ing north on foot through Mex­ico, U.S. of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The plan calls for 800 to 1,000 more troops, most of them ac­tive- duty forces from the Army, to join a grow­ing border mis­sion called for by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, two of­fi­cials said, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment had not been made.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis could au­tho­rize the ad­di­tional de­ploy­ment as early as to­day, the of­fi­cials said, adding that some troops could de­ploy within days, though oth­ers likely will ar­rive later.

In a Thurs­day morn­ing tweet, Trump called again for changes to U.S. im­mi­gra­tion laws, which he said “make it tough for us to stop peo­ple at the Border.” He added that he is “bring­ing out the mil­i­tary for this Na­tional Emer­gency. They will be stopped!” Later, the pres­i­dent tweeted: “To those in the Car­a­van, turn­around, we are not let­ting peo­ple into the United States il­le­gally. Go back to your Coun­try and if you want, ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship like mil­lions of oth­ers are do­ing!”

Crit­ics said that a mil­i­tary so­lu­tion would be costly and in­ef­fec­tive, and they ac­cused Trump of try­ing to fan pub­lic fears over in­flated se­cu­rity threats of the car­a­van to stoke his con­ser­va­tive base ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elec­tions. The car­a­van is still weeks from reach­ing the U.S. border, and Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties said the num­ber of mi­grants has dwin­dled rapidly, from an es­ti­mate of 7,200 by the United Na­tions early in the week to 3,630 on Wed­nes­day. The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment said it had pro­cessed 1,700 asy­lum claims.

It is not clear what im­pact the troops would have, given that many of the mi­grants, if they reach the United States, would prob­a­bly at­tempt to sur­ren­der to Border Pa­trol agents and seek le­gal asy­lum pro­tec­tions. U. S. of­fi­cials said the troops would not con­duct di­rect law en­force­ment but would in­stead play a sup­port­ing role. Those du­ties were still be­ing de­fined, but are likely to in­clude en­gi­neers who can over­see con­struc­tion, avi­a­tion sup­port and pos­si­bly doc­tors or lawyers who can as­sist mi­grants.

“It’s sad and ir­re­spon­si­ble that the pres­i­dent would de­ploy the world’s strong­est mil­i­tary against a group of un­armed mi­grants, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren,” said Kevin Ap­pleby, a pol­icy di­rec­tor at the Cen­ter for Mi­gra­tion Stud­ies. “It demon­strates that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ter­rence poli­cies have failed and they are at the point of des­per­a­tion in their im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. They need a new ap­proach, one that ad­dresses re­gional chal­lenges and the push fac­tors from the [Cen­tral Amer­i­can] re­gion.”

The new de­ploy­ments, first re­ported by CNN, would con­sti­tute a sep­a­rate and dis­tinct mis­sion from Oper­a­tion Guardian Sup­port, un­der which about 2,100 Na­tional Guard troops have been in­volved in border op­er­a­tions since the spring. About 1,600 of those ser­vice­mem­bers are in “border sec­tors,” with oth­ers in head­quar­ters units, of­fi­cials said this week.

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