The Pentagon is sending an additional 2,100 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, it announced Wednesday.
That will include 1,100 active duty soldiers and 1,000 Guardsmen from the Texas National Guard. With the announcement of this deployment, it brings the total number of U.S. troops at the southern border to 6,600; there are already roughly 2,000 Guardsmen and 2,500 active duty soldiers there.
The Pentagon said the increase in active duty troops is due to a “shortfall in volunteer National Guard personnel,” according to spokesperson Maj. Chris Mitchell, Politico reported. The troops will be at the border “in the next several weeks [… to provide] aerial surveillance, operational, logistical and administrative support” to Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Mitchell said 250 Guardsmen will help law enforcement at ports of entry and in Texas airports, and 750 will provide assistance to CBP at two “temporary adult migrant holding facilities” there, noting that the troops will not supervise migrants.
Several waves of troops have been sent to the southern border with Mexico as the U.S. deals with the flow of migrants coming into the country or attempting to enter the country.
Back in April, the Pentagon announced it would be sending several hundred troops to the southern border to monitor, transport and feed illegal immigrants.
Then-Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the deployment request from the Department of Homeland Security, which will keep the additional troops on the border until Sept. 30 at a cost of $7.4 million.
The troops were slated to relieve Border Patrol agents who are currently performing those “babysitting” duties, which allows the agents to return to their posts at the border, especially points of entry.
Border Patrol agents are spending up to 40 percent of their time conducting welfare checks, or transporting migrants to processing or medical care.
The request was part of a $21.9 million military expansion effort on the southern border for 2019.
The DHS request for additional troops that Shanahan approved also included waivers to bypass long-held rules forbidding contact between military personnel and the migrants. The waivers were designated for lawyers, cooks and drivers in the military so they could deploy to the border and perform their roles for the migrants.
Aside from detailing what the troops would be permitted to do, the documents also stipulate what they cannot do. The documents specifically state that military service members cannot conduct law enforcement activities due to the Posse Comitatus Act.
The act, passed in 1898, prohibits U.S. troops from acting in the role of law enforcement while in U.S. territory. The intent of the law was to prevent federal troops from exercising control over states.
The Pentagon has been careful in crafting language so that military personnel’s duties have not encroached on the act, something they also did in Nov. 2018 when authorizing military personnel to protect border agents.