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Nov 30, 2018

DHS asks Pentagon to extend the military’s Mexico border deployment through at least January

By Nick Miroff

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen speak with troops deployed to the Mexico border in South Texas earlier this month. (Handout/Reuters)

Nick Miroff
Reporter covering immigration enforcement, drug trafficking and national security
The Department of Homeland Security asked the Pentagon Friday for a 45-day extension of the U.S. military presence at the Mexico border, a request that would stretch the deployment until at least the end of January.
The Defense Department is expected to agree to the extension in the coming days, well ahead of the expiration of the troops’ current border mission on Dec. 15. Pentagon officials have said that some of the 6,000 active duty military personnel currently stationed along the border in Texas, Arizona and California would be brought home and replaced by other units.
The troops were sent to the border by President Trump ahead of the arrival of thousands of Central American migrants traveling in caravan groups and seeking to enter the United States.
“Given the ongoing threat at our Southern border — today the Department of Homeland Security submitted a request for assistance to the Department of Defense to extend its support through January 31, 2019,” DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said in a statement. “This request refines support to ensure it remains aligned with the current situation, the nature of the mission, and [Customs and Border Protection] operational requirements.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Jaime Davis, confirmed the request. In a statement, Davis said it “refines support to ensure it remains aligned with the current threat, the nature of the mission, and CBP operational requirements.”
Trump is the first president in a nearly a century to use large numbers of active-duty military personnel at the border, as previous administrations have typically called upon National Guard units to back up U.S. agents during moments of heightened threats or surging migration.
Critics of the administration say the border assignment risks undermining the military’s readiness for more-important missions abroad, and that National Guard troops would be much more appropriate for a domestic mission in support of federal law enforcement.
U.S. law generally prohibits soldiers from performing law enforcement duties on American soil, and the troops stationed there now are supposed to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection, not make arrests or detain migrants.
After clashes along the border fence Sunday, DHS officials saw vindication of Trump’s decision to call out the military in the scenes of migrants throwing rocks and attempting to force their way into the United States.
The vast majority of the migrants waiting in Tijuana for a chance to seek asylum in the United States have remained peaceful. But a march by some members of the caravan devolved into a chaotic melee when hundreds of protesting migrants attempted to break through U.S. barriers and others hurled rocks at U.S. agents, who responded with tear gas and pepper ball rounds.
American troops did not directly engage with migrants at the border, but remained in the rear as a back up, according to DHS officials.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters last week that some of the soldiers now assigned to the border would be rotated out in the coming weeks.
“Some of those troops certainly will be home [for the holidays], I would anticipate they would be,” Mattis said. “But some troops may not be or some new troops may be assigned to new missions,” he said. “This is a dynamic situation.”

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