Mattis approves plans to send troops to border

Mattis approves plans to send troops to border
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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey MORE has approved a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) request to send additional troops to the U.S.-Mexico border as President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE vows to stop a convoy of Central American migrants from entering the U.S.

The Pentagon said in a statement Friday that Mattis approved providing "mission-enhancing capabilities to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southwest border."

"This assistance is in addition to the previously authorized support to CBP's Operation Guardian Support mission," the Pentagon statement said.

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Officials said troops will support engineering, planning and communications efforts as well as provide personal protective equipment and temporary housing for government agents as needed.

"U.S. Northern Command will be in the lead for the duration of the operation and is in support of Custom and Border Protection," the Pentagon added.

Officials told The Wall Street Journal that Mattis’s directive starts Tuesday and expires Dec. 15.

While the order does not specify how many troops will be sent to the border, it allows the Pentagon to gauge the amount of personnel that is needed and how to best fill the request. The troops would likely come from active duty units and the Pentagon would not have to dip into the National Guard, officials said. 

Reports have indicated that 800 troops would be sent, but an administration official told the Journal that figure was “premature.” About 2,000 troops were sent to the border earlier this year to support border officials.

The report comes as Trump puts immigration front and center of the debate surrounding the midterm elections, denouncing the migrant “caravan” that is currently making its way up Central America and saying Democrats support “open borders” and may even be behind the caravan itself.

“Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally,” the president tweeted Monday.

– Ellen Mitchell contributed 

Updated: 3:40 p.m.