1,500 additional troops to deploy to border with Mexico as migrant surge expected next week
Stars and Stripes May 2, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — An additional 1,500 military troops are deploying to the southern border with Mexico as the U.S. prepares for an expected surge of migrants next week when a pandemic-era policy that allows for swift deportation is lifted, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The troops will join about 2,400 National Guard members authorized to serve at the border with U.S. Customs and Border Protection as part of a support mission that began in 2018. The mission has been primarily staffed with National Guard members on federal orders but has at times included active-duty troops.
More troops were requested by the Department of Homeland Security and were authorized by the Defense Department for 90 days, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman. The troops “will fill critical capability gaps, such as ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry, and warehouse support, until CBP can address these needs through contracted support,” he said.
They will not do law enforcement work, Ryder said.
The request is part of the federal government's preparations for the lifting of a public health policy on May 11 enacted during the coronavirus pandemic. Known as Title 42, the policy allowed U.S. border officials to quickly turn away migrants crossing the border from Mexico for fear that they would spread the coronavirus.
President Joe Biden has made changes to how migrants can seek asylum in hopes of decreasing the number of people expected to surge to the border. He also signed an order Thursday to allow the activation of reserve troops to address international drug trafficking.
Separately, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has about 5,000 Texas National Guard troops deployed to the border with Mexico to help the state Department of Public Safety patrol the areas between the legal ports-of-entry, including drug trafficking.
The troops have helped seize millions of lethal doses of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has led to an increase in overdose deaths in the U.S., Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, commander of the Texas National Guard, told state lawmakers in March. State troops have also helped arrest more than 351,000 migrants who crossed the border illegally, he said.
Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether he plans to increase his use of state troops next week.
In west Texas, El Paso declared an emergency over the weekend to allow for shelters to open and meet the expected increase of migrants crossing into the border city. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said he expects up to 12,000 people to enter the city on May 11 and 12.
Speaking in a news conference Sunday, he said his concern is people preparing to cross think they will be able to do so without documentation.
“They believe that they will be in the U.S. and won’t need any further documents because Title 42 is lifted. That’s a big difference than what reality is,” Leeser said. “Being out there where they could be exploited with their families and their kids is not healthy. It’s our responsibility … to make sure that we help them.”