Pentagon Will Send Barricades, Helicopters With Troops to Southern Border

A Texas Guardsman and a Customs and Border Patrol agent discuss the lay of the land April 10, 2018 on the shores of the Rio Grande River in Starr County, Texas. (Texas Military Department/Sgt. Mark Otte)
A Texas Guardsman and a Customs and Border Patrol agent discuss the lay of the land April 10, 2018 on the shores of the Rio Grande River in Starr County, Texas. (Texas Military Department/Sgt. Mark Otte)

The Pentagon announced Friday that additional troops, reportedly expected to number 800 or more, will be sent to the southern border to back up federal agents anticipating the arrival of a "caravan" of thousands of mostly Central Americans seeking to cross.

In a brief statement, the Pentagon said that the additional troops, a mix of active duty and National Guard personnel, would join about 2,100 National Guard troops already on the border who have no law enforcement authority, but can assist Customs and Border Protection.

The statement did not give details on where the additional troops would come from, when they would be deployed or how long they would stay.

The two-paragraph Pentagon statement Friday said that Mattis had approved "mission-enhancing capabilities" for CBP's continuing Operation Guardian Support along the border.

The capabilities included planning assistance, and engineering support in the form of temporary barriers, barricades, and fencing, the statement said.

In addition, the military will be providing fixed and rotary wing aviation support to move CBP personnel and medical teams to "triage, treat and prepare for commercial transport of patients," the Pentagon said.

The military will also help with command and control facilities, temporary housing for CBP personnel, and personal protective equipment for CBP personnel, all at the direction of U.S. Northern Command in support of CBP, the statement said.

Earlier Friday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis agreed to the request for more troops from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen with the backing of President Donald Trump.

Nielsen told Fox News Friday that "we have a sovereign right to protect our system" through aggressive action by CBP, but "we do not have any intention right now to shoot at people," though they would be apprehended.

"But I also take my officers and agents, their own personal safety, extraordinarily seriously. They do have the ability, of course, to defend themselves," she said.

Previous Pentagon statements have said that the National Guard troops on the border would not be involved in actual apprehensions but also had the right to defend themselves.

Republicans in Congress quickly gave support to the troop deployment.

"Mexico should secure its own territory and turn this caravan around," but the troop deployments were necessary as a precaution, said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Thornberry said Trump's actions were consistent with similar deployments to the border ordered by President Barack Obama in 2010 and President George W. Bush in 2006.

"Allowing thousands of people to cross America's southern borders in contravention of our laws is not a sustainable solution to the difficult conditions driving people out of their homes and countries in Central America," Thornberry said.

At several rallies ahead of the Nov. 6 elections, Trump has pressed the caravan issue and warned of illegal immigrants "pouring across the border."

In a tweet Thursday, Trump said that "Democrat-inspired laws make it tough for us to stop people at the border" and added said he was using the military to respond to what he called a "National Emergency."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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