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Border deployment extended about seven weeks for 1,000 Texas National Guard troops

A Texas Guardsmen and a Customs and Border Patrol agent discuss the lay of the land on the shores of the Rio Grande River in Starr County, Texas in April as part of the federal call-up to the Texas Mexico border.

MARK OTTE/TEXAS ARMY NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO

By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 3, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas — A deployment expected to end Monday was extended into November for 1,000 Texas National Guard troops serving along the U.S.-Mexico border, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the extension Sept. 16 at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, said Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman.

“The request was simply an extension to the mission already being carried out by the Texas National Guard, and covers all aspects of it, to include the number of troops,” he said.

About 750 of the soldiers provide operational, logistical and administrative support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection at two tents used as adult migrant holding facilities. One is located in the Rio Grande Valley city of Donna and the other is in Tornillo, near El Paso in west Texas.

Migrants are supervised by DHS law enforcement personnel, Mitchell said.

The remaining Texas National Guard members provide port-of-entry enforcement support at CBP-designated U.S. entry points and airports in Texas to enhance border security and improve the flow of commercial traffic.

Officials at the Texas Military Department said soldiers will return from this mission, which is separate from the other missions conducted by National Guard troops at the border, on or about Nov. 15. The other mission, known as Operation Guardian Support, stretches across the southern border and is approved through the end of fiscal year 2020, Mitchell said.

Nearly 5,000 servicemembers are serving along the southern border in addition to the 1,000 Texas National Guard members, according to information released last month by the Pentagon. That includes about 2,900 active-duty troops and 2,000 National Guard members.

The deployments began as a way to help Border Patrol agents deal with an increase in apprehensions along the southern border. In May, more than 144,000 people were arrested at the border, according to data from CBP. They were primarily migrants from South and Central America seeking asylum. In August, apprehensions dropped to about 64,000 — the third consecutive month to have a decrease. Data on September apprehensions has not been released.

thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori

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