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Mattis to visit troops deployed at southern border on Wednesday

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis arrives in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Oct. 16, 2018. (Lisa Ferdinando/Department of Defense)
November 13, 2018

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is heading to the southern border Wednesday to meet with U.S. troops deployed there.

The stop is part of a one-day trip, during which Mattis will stop in Texas to meet with members of the military deployed for the border-strengthening mission, according to a Department of Defense press release on Tuesday.

Afterward, Mattis will travel to the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming for a ceremony signifying the return of the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines.

Some 7,000 troops have been deployed to the southern border mission, at least 2,800 of which are in Texas, The Hill reported Tuesday. They are expected to remain at the border for at least another month.

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President Donald Trump previously said up to 15,000 troops could be deployed to the border in preparation for the incoming migrant caravan.

Last week, Mattis ordered the Pentagon to stop referring to the border mission as “Operation Faithful Patriot,” the Associated Press reported at the time. A reason was not provided for the change, although U.S. officials reportedly said Mattis disliked the name and believed it posed a distraction from the Border Patrol support mission.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis confirmed that the Pentagon would not continue using the name, and it has not been used in press releases or other official documents since.

Reporters have pressed Mattis on the cost of the border mission, as rumors have swirled on estimates in the tens of millions to hundreds of millions. However, an official estimate has not been made available.

“We’ll update you on costs as they become known,” Mattis told reporters Tuesday. “Obviously the units executing the border mission have got to report them right up here … We are capturing the costs.”

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Some members of the migrant caravan had begun to reach Tijuana, Mexico, by bus on Tuesday, after an estimated 5,000 migrants departed Mexico City on Friday, Fox News reported.

In response, Customs and Border Protection said it was working to strengthen ports of entry from Tijuana, including the closure of four lanes of highway in San Diego, Calif., at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa entry points.

The agency said the closures were necessary “to install and pre-position port hardening infrastructure equipment in preparation for the migrant caravan and the potential safety and security risk that it could cause.”

The caravan has traveled approximately 1,500 miles since it departed Honduras on Oct. 13. Much of the caravan has another 1,350 miles to travel before reaching the U.S. border.

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This article has been updated to correct the distance of travel remaining for the portions of the caravan that have not yet arrived in Tijuana.