Troops Deployed to the Border / by Karie Luidens


The announcement earlier this week that more troops have been ordered to the U.S.-Mexico border prompted me to comb through relevant coverage from the last few months and edit together a timeline to help me grasp the facts.

Where is the migrant caravan from – and what will happen to it at the border?

David Agren in Huixtla and Amanda Holpuch in New York
Wed 24 Oct 2018 12.19 EDT

Thousands of Central American migrants, including men, women and entire families, are walking through southern Mexico, in the hope of reaching the US.

The group has grown steadily since setting out from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on 12 October, but the exact size is unclear as there is no single organizing group. […]

People in the group say they are fleeing grinding poverty, and the violent crime which has helped turn Central America into one of the most dangerous regions of the world. […]

No one in the group seems to know exactly which route they will take through Mexico. At the moment, the caravan is moving along the sparsely populated coast of the southern state of Chiapas, more than 1,243 miles (2,000km) from the US border. […]

Some have speculated that the caravan might take a longer route towards California where they may hope to receive more sympathetic treatment in immigration courts than they would do at closer border crossings in Texas. […]

Most of the people who make it to the border are likely to turn themselves in to US authorities and claim asylum, although a few – mostly younger men – have said they will attempt to cross illegally if that is not possible.

Trump has said he will not let caravan members in, but the US is legally obliged to consider the cases of asylum seekers.


ON 10/29/18 AT 5:58 PM

The Pentagon announced Monday [10/28/18] that it will send up to 5,200 troops to the border ahead of the anticipated arrival of a caravan of Central American migrants that President Donald Trump has warned would not be able to enter the country. These troops, which "are in fact deploying with weapons" will join up to 2,000 National Guards already at the border for a combined force of about 7,200—or about the same amount of U.S. soldiers involved in the battle against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

Here are the rules of engagement for troops deploying to the Mexican border

By: Tara Copp
November 2, 2018

President Donald Trump on Thursday told troops deploying to the border they could shoot migrants who might throw rocks at them.

[Editors note: President Trump appeared to walk back his remarks about rules of engagement on Friday.]

But what troops will actually be able to do — or should do — is tightly governed. […]

All active duty forces dispatched to the border are governed by the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids troops from carrying out law enforcement duties inside United States territory unless Congress grants an exemption.

Under the act, federal military forces are prohibited from engaging in direct law enforcement, which includes making arrests, conducting searches, seizures, apprehension, evidence collection, interrogations, security patrols, seizures, stop and frisks, surveillance, crowd and traffic control, enforcement of a quarantine or isolation, or other similar police functions.

Congress has amended that act some to increase the authorized level of support the military may provide for drug interdiction and to support border patrol.

According to the Congressional Research Service, under the extended support, the military may provide "assistance in maintenance or upgrade of equipment; transportation of personnel; establishment and operation of operations or training bases; training of law enforcement personnel; detecting and monitoring traffic within 25 miles of the border; road and fence construction; light installation along smuggling corridors; the establishment of command and control centers and computer networks; the provision of linguist and intelligence analysis services; and aerial and ground reconnaissance.”

Deployed Inside the United States: The Military Waits for the Migrant Caravan

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper
Nov. 10, 2018

There has been no money set aside to combat the men, women and children who are bound for the American border, many of them fleeing violence or corruption, nearly all seeking better lives. The troops are tasked with the same types of logistical, support and even clerical jobs that National Guard soldiers sent to the border earlier this year are already doing. [...]

In late October, the Department of Homeland Security sent a memo to the Pentagon with a series of formal requests for support in handling immigrants at the southern border, including the caravan on its way from Central America, according to two senior administration officials.

Among the requests, issued at the White House’s behest, were that troops deployed to the border be armed, prepared for direct contact with the migrants and ready to operate under rules for the use of force to be set by the Defense Department.

When Defense Department officials replied the same day, on Mr. Mattis’s orders, they rejected those requests and referred the Department of Homeland Security to the White House, the officials said. The Defense Department viewed the requests as inappropriate and legally treacherous, potentially setting up soldiers for violent encounters with migrants.

James Mattis visits troops stationed at US-Mexico border

By Yaron Steinbuch
November 14, 2018

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday defended the deployment of thousands of US troops to the border with Mexico, saying the mission was “absolutely legal” and provides good training for war.

Mattis, who visited the troops near the Texas town of Donna along with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, likened their mission to that of soldiers sent to counter the Mexican revolutionary Gen. Francisco “Pancho” Villa in 1916.

“It’s very clear that support to border police or border patrol is necessary right now,” the Pentagon chief said, noting that that was the assessment of the Department of Homeland Security.

While Mattis visited the troops at the southern tip of Texas near the Gulf of Mexico, migrants in a caravan of Central Americans scrambled to reach the US border some 1,500 miles away in Tijuana.

Why migrants won’t see armed US troops on the border

By: Julie Watson, The Associated Press
November 18, 2018

Of the 5,800 soldiers and Marines, more than 2,800 are in Texas, while about 1,500 are in Arizona and another 1,300 are in California. All U.S. military branches, except the Coast Guard, are barred from performing law enforcement duties.

That means there will be no visible show of armed troops, said Army Maj. Scott McCullough, adding that the mission is to provide support to Customs and Border Protection.

"Soldiers putting up wire on the border and barriers at the ports of entry will be the most visible," he said.

Marines and soldiers share the same duties in California and Arizona. These include erecting tents, setting up showers and arranging meals for troops working on the border, and assigning military police to protect them.

There are no tents or camps being set up to house migrants, McCullough said. Medics are on hand to treat troops and border patrol agents — not migrants — for cuts, bruises and any other problems.

Pentagon: Troops deployed at US-Mexico border to cost about $210 million

Robert Burns, Associated Press
Published 12:51 a.m. ET Nov. 21, 2018

As hundreds of exhausted people in a caravan of Central American asylum seekers reached the U.S. border in Mexico on Friday [11/16/18], American troops worked to fortify the fence and port of entry separating the two countries with strands of razor wire.

Using thousands of military troops to help secure the Southwest border will cost an estimated $210 million under current plans, the Pentagon told Congress on Tuesday, even as questions arose about the scope and duration of the controversial mission. [...]

About 2,800 of the active-duty troops are in South Texas, far from the main migrant caravan in Tijuana, Mexico, south of California. The movement of the Central American migrants into Mexico in October was the stated reason that President Donald Trump ordered the military to provide support for Customs and Border Protection.

Trump, who called the migrant caravan an “invasion,” has been accused by critics, including some retired military officers, of using the military deployment as a political tool in the run-up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

US begins to withdraw soldiers deployed to the border

Monday, December 10, 2018
By Associated Press

The U.S. this week will begin withdrawing many of the active duty troops sent to the border with Mexico by President Donald Trump just before the midterm election in response to a caravan of Central American migrants, U.S. officials said Monday.

About 2,200 of the active duty troops will be pulled out before the holidays, the officials said, shrinking an unusual domestic deployment that was viewed by critics as a political stunt and a waste of military resources.

Troops Continue Deployment At Border Over Holidays

Thursday, December 27, 2018
By Steve Walsh

About 2,600 active troops remained deployed along the U.S. border with Mexico over the holidays. With 1,200 troops stationed in California, the state has the most troops among the three border states.