Troops re­port to bor­der in San Diego

With mi­grant groups hun­dreds of miles away, mil­i­tary forces be­gin to re­in­force U.S.-Mex­ico bar­ri­ers.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Kristina Davis kristina.davis @sdunion­tri­bune.com Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tri­bune.

SAN DIEGO — Troops from Camp Pendle­ton and Texas re­ported for their first day of work Thurs­day along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der in San Diego, part of Pres­i­dent Trump’s re­sponse to thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants trav­el­ing in car­a­vans to­ward the bor­der.

“We are out here to sup­port Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion to en­able them to de­fend the south­ern bor­der,” said 2nd Lt. Fred­er­ick D. Walker, a Marine spokesman for the mil­i­tary task force as­signed to San Diego, as troops nearby un­furled large spools of ra­zor wire and un­loaded heavy ma­chin­ery from ve­hi­cles.

Much of the fo­cus, at least ini­tially, will be on strength­en­ing the bor­der bar­rier.

“We are hard­en­ing, if you will, the fence here, putting up con­certina wire to make that wall less scal­able,” Walker said.

So far, some 1,300 troops have been as­signed to sup­port op­er­a­tions along the Cal­i­for­nia-Mex­ico bor­der. About 1,100 al­ready are serv­ing at Camp Pendle­ton with the 1st Marine Ex­pe­di­tionary Force as part of a Marine air-ground task force, of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

They will be de­ployed in waves as needed, said Michael Kucharek, a spokesman at U.S. North­ern Com­mand, which is co­or­di­nat­ing the na­tional ef­fort.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, about two dozen Army sol­diers from a mil­i­tary po­lice unit based at Ft. Bliss, Texas, staged along­side large mil­i­tary trucks near the San Ysidro Port of En­try be­fore mov­ing closer to the bor­der fence to be­gin work. Some north­bound mo­torists honked their horns as they passed the cam­ou­flaged gath­er­ing.

The De­fense Depart­ment said an­other 1,500 troops have been de­ployed in Ari­zona and 2,800 in Texas. The to­tal num­ber of troops is ex­pected to grow to more than 7,000.

Though many of the mi­grants have said they plan to present their asy­lum claims at U.S. ports of en­try, au­thor­i­ties fear large groups will at­tempt to rush the bor­der and cross il­le­gally. That’s how at least one group en­tered Mex­ico from Gu­atemala, by push­ing through bor­der gates and over­whelm­ing sol­diers.

The mil­i­tary mo­bi­liza­tion and Trump’s re­peated char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the car­a­vans as an “in­va­sion” have been crit­i­cized as a way to fur­ther politi­cize the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue.

Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cials Thurs­day said they are re­in­forc­ing their own ranks along the bor­der “well in ad­vance” of the car­a­vans’ ar­rivals “to en­sure that we can ad­dress any con­tin­gency.” The goal, of­fi­cials said, is “to main­tain bor­der se­cu­rity and the safety of mi­grants, the trav­el­ing pub­lic, ship­pers and CBP per­son­nel in the event that large groups move to cross the bor­der.”

About 4,000 to 5,000 mi­grants, most from Hon­duras, are headed for Mex­ico City — about 1,500 miles from San Diego — to re­con­vene, refuel and rest. Many have hitched rides on trucks in ad­di­tion to walk­ing.

Last spring, a sim­i­lar car­a­van of about 1,000 picked San Diego as its des­ti­na­tion, but by the time the mi­grants had ar­rived the group had dwin­dled. About 250 peo­ple have been pro­cessed for asy­lum claims in San Ysidro while oth­ers re­main in Ti­juana. Many mi­grant shel­ters in Ti­juana are over ca­pac­ity due to the long wait for asy­lum pro­cess­ing.

John Gibbins San Diego Union-Tri­bune

A MARINE CORPS en­gi­neer from Camp Pendle­ton puts up ra­zor wire east of the San Ysidro Port of En­try in San Diego on Fri­day. So far some 1,300 troops have been as­signed to sup­port op­er­a­tions along the bor­der.

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