Homeland Security asks for longer stay
The Department of Homeland Security asked the Pentagon Friday for a 45-day extension of the U.S. military presence at the Mexico border, a request that would stretch the deployment until at least the end of January.
The Defense Department is expected to agree to the extension in the coming days, well ahead of the mission’s current expiration date, which is Dec. 15. Pentagon officials have said that some of the 6,000 active-duty military personnel stationed along the border in Texas, Arizona and California would be brought home and replaced by other units.
The troops were sent to the border by President Donald Trump ahead of the arrival of thousands of Central American migrants traveling in caravan groups and seeking to enter the United States.
“Given the ongoing threat at our Southern border – today the Department of Homeland Security submitted a request for assistance to the Department of Defense to extend its support through January 31, 2019,” DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a statement. “This request refines support to ensure it remains aligned with the current situation, the nature of the mission, and [Customs and Border Protection] operational requirements.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Jaime Davis, confirmed the request. In a statement, Davis said it “refines support to ensure it remains aligned with the current threat, the nature of the mission, and CBP operational requirements.”
Trump is the first president in a nearly a century to use large numbers of active-duty military personnel at the border, as previous administrations have typically called upon National Guard units to back up U.S. agents during moments of heightened threats or surging migration.
Critics of the administration say the border assignment risks undermining the military’s readiness for more-important missions abroad and that National Guard troops would be much more appropriate for a domestic mission in support of federal law enforcement.
U.S. law generally prohibits soldiers from performing law enforcement duties on American soil, and the troops stationed there now are supposed to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection, not make arrests or detain migrants.
After clashes along the border fence Sunday, DHS officials saw vindication of Trump’s decision to call out the military in the scenes of migrants throwing rocks and attempting to force their way into the United States.