Anticipating a potential surge in illegal immigration when COVID-19 border restrictions lift later this month, President Joe Biden’s administration will temporarily send 1,500 additional troops to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
This deployment of active-duty troops will supplement the work of the US Border Patrol, but they will not carry out law enforcement duties, only ground-based monitoring, data entry, and warehouse support, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed.
The Pentagon on Tuesday approved the request for troops by Homeland Security, which manages the border.
Troops to fill critical gaps
During the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2022, authorities apprehended almost 2.4 million individuals at the border, with a majority of them being returned.In March 2023, the number of people intercepted without proper migration documents was 191,899.
The force will be deployed for 90 days, in addition to the ongoing deployment of about 2,500 National Guard troops.
According to the Pentagon spokesperson, the troops will fill critical capability gaps and free up border agents to perform their duties effectively.
US military troops have been used to help secure the border during previous presidential administrations, including George W.Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.Jean-Pierre called such deployments “a common practice.”
US grapples with record numbers of migrants
The so-called Title 42 restrictions, which allow US authorities to rapidly expel non-Mexican migrants to Mexico without the chance to seek asylum, will end on May 11, potentially leading to a surge in illegal immigration.
The US has been grappling with record numbers of migrants caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border since Biden took office.
Administration officials last week outlined their plan to expedite the screening process for asylum-seeking migrants at the border.
Individuals who are deemed unqualified will be promptly deported, and those who cross the US border illegally or unlawfully pass through another country en route to the US border will face penalties.
Additionally, centers will be established outside the US to allow people escaping violence and poverty to apply for legal entry and resettlement in the United States, Canada, or Spain.
“It’s an approach focused on making migration more safe, orderly and humane and advancing the interests of the American people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Meanwhile, the US would continue to accept migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela under a humanitarian program after May 11, the U.S.and Mexican governments announced on Tuesday.
Mexico would also continue accepting migrants returned under humanitarian reasons, the two countries said in a joint statement.
Mixed reactions across political aisle
President Biden’s decision to temporarily send 1,500 additional troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to supplement the work of the US Border Patrol has sparked mixed reactions from both sides of the aisle.
Some Democrats and immigration activists have criticized Biden for gradually toughening his approach to border security.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has labeled Biden’s decision to send troops to the border as “unacceptable.”
“Trying to score political points or intimidate migrants by sending the military to the border caters to the Republican Party’s xenophobic attacks on our asylum system,” Menendez said in a statement.
On the other hand, Republicans have criticized Biden’s immigration policies for being too lenient and for causing a surge in illegal immigration.They argue that the deployment of additional troops is a step in the right direction but not enough to address the problem.