More troops are heading to the southern U.S. border in preparation for the incoming migrant caravan.
As of Tuesday, 5,200 troops were expected to be deployed to the border, consisting of 2,700 in Texas; 1,200 in Arizona; and 1,100 in California, a Pentagon official told The Wall Street Journal on Monday.
Another 2,000 troops are scheduled to deploy within days, bringing the total number border-deployed troops close to 8,000.
Nearly 8,000 U.S. troops will be sent to three border states in anticipation of a caravan of migrants and would-be asylum seekers traveling through Mexico, a U.S. official said, marking another increase in the planned deployment https://t.co/7IMwBkYby5
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 6, 2018
While the caravan is not expected to arrive at the border for another month, deployed troops are preparing by identifying and correcting vulnerabilities on the border as a part of Operation Faithful Patriot.
Troops are helping construct barriers along the border, using vehicles and fencing at entry points. Additionally, they’re building temporary shelters for Customs and Border Protection personnel deployed to the border as a part of Operation Secure Line.
However, the troops’ presence at the border left many wondering what their role would be if there were to be a confrontation with the caravan – especially after remarks made by President Donald Trump.
Trump was asked at a press conference Thursday if he sees the military firing at migrants who are trying to cross the border.
“I hope not,” Trump said. “I hope there won’t be that. But I will tell you this: anybody throwing stones, rocks – like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military, Mexican police – where they badly hurt police and soldiers – we will consider that a firearm, because there’s not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock,” he said last week.
Asked if he envisions the US military firing at migrants at the border, President Trump says: “I hope not.”
“I will tell you this, anybody throwing stones, rocks … we will consider that a firearm, because there’s not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock.” pic.twitter.com/mnsc56EFT7
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 1, 2018
When reporters asked for clarification on Friday, Trump had a different position.
“They do that with us [throw rocks], they’re going to be arrested, there’s going to be problems. I didn’t say shoot. I didn’t say shoot. But they do that with us, they’re going to be arrested for a long time. We will arrest them,” he said, according to ABC News.
Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford clarified the military’s role at the border, saying, “There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States.”
“There is no plan for the soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or to reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capability,” he added.
The Joint Chiefs chair says soldiers will not be involved in denying border entry to migrants https://t.co/LYsUz14fJp pic.twitter.com/F9MxLicpgj
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) November 6, 2018
Dunford’s comments follow a risk assessment completed by the Pentagon in which it found that the caravan was not deemed a threat to the U.S.
Critics of the border deployment have referred to it as a “political stunt,” a term Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has vehemently denied.
“The support that we provide to the secretary for Homeland Security is practical support based on the request from the commissioner of customs and border police. We don’t do stunts in this department,” Mattis said last week.
In addition to the 5,200 troops deployed at the border and the upcoming 2,000 that comprise Operation Faithful Patriot, more than 2,000 National Guard personnel have already deployed as a part of Operation Guardian Support.