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Trump may permit US troops to protect immigration agents at the border

Protesters clash on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, with police guarding a sports facility in Tijuana where more than 2,000 Central immigrants are sheltered. Protesters demanded an end to the Central American immigrant caravans making their way north from the border with Guatemala, and called for the expulsion of migrants already in Mexico. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
November 20, 2018

President Trump may soon issue a directive to U.S. troops to protect federal immigration agents along the southern border.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reportedly requested the protection mandate from President Trump, two defense officials told NBC News on Tuesday.

U.S. troops currently have no authority to provide protection to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the border.

DHS wants that to change in the wake of the incoming migrant caravan, which has already proven disruptive at the southern border, with some even rushing the border despite barriers.

“As Secretary Nielsen has said, we will not allow our frontline personnel to be in harm’s way. We will do everything we can to protect those who defend our nation’s sovereignty and secure our border. We appreciate the Department of Defense stepping in to assist the Department of Homeland Security as needed,” said Katie Waldman, a DHS spokesperson.

The mandate could go into effect on Tuesday, though an official statement has not yet been made.

Approximately 5,800 U.S. troops were deployed to the border, combining with 2,000 previously deployed there.

The nearly-8,000 troops were carrying out a border support mission, which consisted of strengthening the border in preparation for the incoming migrant caravan. Troops and agents were busy erecting barriers and barbed wire, in addition to tents for temporarily housing personnel.

The San Ysidro Port of Entry between Tijuana and San Diego was temporarily shut down on Monday as CBP officials worked to strengthen the border amid disruptions and rumors that the caravan may attempt to rush the border.

“This AM, all of #SanYsidro Port of Entry’s northbound lanes were temporarily closed to initiate additional port hardening efforts after @CBP officials were notified that a large # of caravan migrants were planning to rush the border in an attempt to gain illegal access to the US,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted Monday.

“@CBP and @DeptofDefense appropriately responded by blocking the lanes, deploying additional personnel and seeking assistance from other law enforcement and federal assets. #CBP has reopened lanes for legitimate trade and travel. I want to thank them for their swift actions,” she tweeted again.

Homeland Security officials estimated that 6,000 migrants are awaiting processing in Tijuana, with another group of 3,400 migrants on the way, Fox News reported on Monday. Some 2,700 migrants from the Honduras caravan have applied for asylum in Mexico under a new program created last month.

A backlog of asylum applicants has created a long waiting list that has resulted in frustration among migrants, who complained they don’t have the time or money to wait for their applications to be processed.

Customs and Border Protection personnel have been processing about 100 asylum applications each day at the port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego.