- Thousands of US troops are building barriers and hardening ports of entry, but the US military says it does not have a clear plan for what to do when the migrant caravans arrive.
- Army North said on Tuesday that there is no specific plan or guidance for when the migrants arrive.
- We’re doing the obstacle emplacement,” Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.”We will have to see what the future holds, but right now that is the only mission I have.”
Thousands of active-duty US troops have deployed to the US-Mexico border to support border agents as large migrant caravans march through Mexico, the first of which began to reach border towns Tuesday.
The troops are building barriers and hardening ports of entry, but the US military says it does not have a clear plan for what to do when the migrants finally arrive, raising new questions about the large-scale troop deployments that President Trump has ordered.
The Pentagon referred INSIDER to US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) for questions on US military activity at the southern border, and NORTHCOM redirected BI to Army North, which is officially in charge of the mission formerly called “Operation Faithful Patriot.”
Army North said on Tuesday that there is no specific plan or guidance for when the migrants arrive. Media reports said the first wave of about one hundred migrants began to arrive near Tijuana on Tuesday. Thousands more are presently located near Guadalajara and Veracruz, Mexico.
When asked whether or not someone higher up had a plan, Army North spokeswoman First Lt. Marenda Figgs responded, “Presumably. We are hoping, but it hasn’t trickled down to us.”
Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis said Tuesday that there has been “no change” to the mission at the US-Mexico border. “We’re doing the obstacle emplacement,” he explained to reporters at the Pentagon.” We will have to see what the future holds, but right now that is the only mission I have.”
Mattis visited troops deployed to the border Wednesday.
So far, the military has been running concertina (razor) wire at key crossing points and setting up barriers. Troops have also been building tent cities, which will house US military personnel and border patrol officials.
“Short term, get the obstacles in,” the defence secretary said Wednesday, “Longer term…it is somewhat to be determined.”
Unlike the more than 2,000 National Guard troops deployed to the border in April, the active-duty units at or heading to the southern border are forbidden from engaging in law enforcement activities on American soil by the Posse Comitatus Act.
There are currently around 6,000 active-duty troops deployed, and the president has said that as many as 15,000 could eventually be deployed, although the Pentagon puts operational estimates closer to 7,000.
Critics of the latest deployments argued that the Trump administration sent US troops to the border as a political stunt ahead of mid-term elections. Mattis responded to these accusations, saying, “We don’t do stunts in this department.”
The day after the election, the operation ceased to be called “Operation Faithful Patriot.” Pentagon officials instead call the mission “border support.”
President Donald Trump has characterised the approaching caravans as an “invasion,” and CBP has stressed that these caravans “are larger than we’ve seen in the past.” CBP says the military is hardening points of entry, as well as offering an extra set of eyes on potential security gaps.