U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) request to extend the deployments of some U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, to begin in October.
The Department of Defense confirmed Esper’s decision in an emailed statement to American Military News on Thursday. The extended deployment will start in October, and the border mission is authorized through the 2021 fiscal year.
“Secretary Esper has approved a request for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security and authorized the deployment of up to 4,000 DOD personnel to the southern border, beginning in October,” the DOD statement read.
The DOD statement indicated the 4,000 DOD personnel would primarily be drawn from various National Guard units, being activated to serve in a “Title 10” capacity as federal troops.
“The duties to be performed by military personnel include the same categories of support as those currently being carried out along the border, including detection and monitoring, logistics, and transportation support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” the DOD statement read. “Military personnel will not directly participate in civilian law enforcement activities.”
U.S. troops have been called upon to assist in securing the U.S.-Mexico border at various points during President Donald Trump’s administration. In November of 2018, more than 7,000 U.S. troops began deployments along the southern border in an anticipation of a caravan of thousands of Central American migrants marching toward the U.S. border.
The U.S. troop levels at the southern border have been capped at 5,500 since the fall of 2019, Military Times reported. Esper’s 4,000 troop order represents an extension for most of those troops as well as a 1,500 troop reduction in the overall number allowed for border deployments.
Since the state of the military border missions, troop levels have fluctuated somewhat as some units have been ordered back and others have been called back up in times of need.
U.S. troops were again sent to the southern border in March of 2020, while the Trump administration appealed a 9th Circuit Court ruling that stopped the “Remain in Mexico” policy, also known as Migrant Protection Protocols. The policy required asylum seekers attempting to enter the U.S. to remain in Mexico while their asylum application is being considered.
Troops were sent to the border again in April of 2020 to help authorities enforcing border closures during the height of the coronavirus outbreak.
“DoD and DHS constantly review the situation along the border, adjusting requirements as necessary to maintain the safety and security of the American people,” the DOD statement said, explaining the decision to approve the planned October border deployment.