US senior officials said on Monday that by the end of this week some 5,200 additional US troops will be deployed on the border with Mexico, as President Trump compared a caravan of Central American migrants heading north to "an invasion."
The deployments, which take place in an operation known as Faithful Patriot, are already underway, said Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the head of the United States Northern Command. He said the military, working alongside US Customs and Border Protection, will focus first on strengthening the border in Texas, followed by Arizona and California.
The deployments will include three battalions of combat engineers, members of the US Army Corps of Engineers. UU And troops that specialize in aviation, medical treatment and logistics, said O'Shaughnessy. He highlighted the deployment of helicopters, which will be deployed with night vision capabilities and sensors that will help CBP determine where they should be. "We will be able to detect and identify groups and quickly deploy CBP staff where necessary," he said.
On Monday, Trump tweeled accusations about the caravan without citing any evidence.
"Many gang members and some very bad people mix in the Caravan that heads to our southern border," Trump said. "Please come back, you will not be admitted to the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our country and our military is waiting for you!
The White House has tried to make immigration the main issue of the November 6 midterm elections, confident that Trump's hardline message will continue to push its conservative base to the polls and even attract more moderate voters. . The president clung to the caravan of migrants, helping to draw attention to the group and labeling it as a threat to national security.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that the administration is considering several administrative actions on the southern border, although she declined to describe the options publicly. Trump will do what he "deems necessary" on immigration, Sanders said.
Pentagon officials and National Security officials are preparing a joint press conference on Monday afternoon to describe the deployment in greater detail. A DHS official involved in the preparations said the plans have not yet been finalized, but that the troop levels that were considered last week were not realistic.
"We have requested capacities, and DHS is looking to fill capacities, and the [Pentagon] It is in the process of determining which units to send and the number of personnel it will take, and that has not yet been determined, "said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.
Navy Capt. Bill Speaks, a Pentagon spokesman, said early Monday that it was premature to discuss the deployment because the planning was still underway.
But the photographs and videos posted on the Pentagon's photo-sharing website showed that some new deployments to the border were already under way on a mission called Operation Patrio Fiel. A video showed aviators from the Third Airlift Air Force Squadron arriving in Fort Knox, Kentucky, to transport the members of the 89th Army Military Police Brigade to the border.
US officials say that the deployment at the border under consideration would not include "firing triggers" charged with arresting migrants or other compliance duties. Rather, the troops would offer "logistical support" to the US Border Patrol. UU And other National Security agencies, and would include construction brigades, air transportation teams, and medical personnel.
The largest deployment was reported for the first time by the Wall Street Journal.
Immigrant rights groups have accused Trump of demagogy on the issue by inflating the size and security threat posed by migrants, consisting mainly of families, including children.
The White House has exerted significant pressure on the Mexican government to block the advance of the caravan. The group has decreased from a maximum of almost 7,000 migrants, as some travelers and parents with children have left or have fallen behind. According to the authorities, at least 1,000 caravan members have applied for asylum in Mexico.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Friday offered temporary work permits, medical care and other benefits to migrants if they agree to register with the authorities and remain in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, far from the US border. UU But the main group of mostly Honduran migrants, estimated by authorities to be between 3,000 and 4,000, rejected their appeal and continued heading north toward the United States border.
The caravan remains at least 900 miles from the territory of the United States. UU., So your arrival is not imminent.
In an attempt to limit the size of the caravan, the Mexican police clashed with a smaller, separate group of Central Americans on Sunday trying to enter from Guatemala and reach the main group. At least one man was killed when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Sunday he was finalizing the details of the rules under which the US troops that would deploy to the border will operate. Mattis said he would make sure that whatever material was needed reached the border, noting that what the army will provide includes construction elements such as the Jersey barriers. He said his staff had been meeting in recent days to determine how many staff would go, but that the deployment would be "gradual."
"On the border, we are preparing what we call defense support for civil authorities," Mattis said.
David Nakamura, Seung Min Kim, Alex Horton and Paul Sonne contributed to this report.