2020 Democrats challenge Trump's use of troops at Mexico border

A group of likely Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday challenged the Trump administration over its deployment of 5,800 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border shortly before the midterm elections. 

In a letter to Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics MORE, a group of 2020 Democratic hopefuls, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE (I-Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.), wrote they were “deeply disturbed by the overt politicization of the military.” 

They argued the deployment of troops along the border to intercept a caravan of migrants from Central America was not justified by national security concerns. They charged that it was really designed to bolster President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE’s campaign message on illegal immigration. 

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“The politically-motivated mission misuses active duty servicemembers and wastes Department of Defense (DOD) resources, both of which could compromise military readiness in the face of a true national security threat and heighten the risk of a confrontation between asylum-seekers and armed servicemembers,” they wrote.

The lawmakers called for a briefing and written justification from the U.S. Northern Command for the deployment of troops along the border and urged Mattis to otherwise “curb the unprecedented escalation of DOD involvement in immigration enforcement.” 

The senators criticized Northern Command for issuing what they called an “inflammatory” order days before the elections that “exaggerated the migrant threat.

The order warned the security of the nation was “imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal drugs [and] dangerous gang activity.”

The Democrats say the late-October order contradicted another intelligence assessment that predicted the number of migrants in the caravan was likely to decrease and found the group was not likely infiltrated by terrorists or criminal gangs. 

Senate Democrats say that active-duty troops didn’t need to be deployed to the border because National Guard units were already stationed in the area. They argued that the combined number of U.S. troops on the border was greater than the number of migrants expected to arrive. 

“Our concerns about this seemingly disproportionate military response to the migrant caravan are amplified by the obvious political agenda at play. Both the deployment timing and mission name reveal a blatant partisan ploy,” they wrote. 

Trump crisscrossed the country in the week before Election Day warning of the threat posed by the caravan as he bashed Democrats for being weak on border security.

The senators urged Mattis “to protect the apolitical, non-partisan nature of the U.S. Armed Forces” and gave him a deadline of Dec. 6 to provide a briefing justifying the deployment. 

The other signatories to Tuesday’s letter include Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate Gillibrand unveils mental health plan MORE (D-N.Y.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBank watchdogs approve rule to loosen ban on risky Wall Street trades Dayton mayor assigned extra security following verbal spat with Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape MORE (D-Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic senator and top Trump immigration official argue over asylum claims on Twitter Senate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico MORE (D-Ore.), who are also considering presidential bids in 2020. 

Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback MORE (D-N.J.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction Financial aid fraud is wrong — but overcorrection could hurt more students Democrats denounce Trump's attack on Cummings: 'These are not the words of a patriot' MORE (D-Md.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMoulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Joseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts Overnight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs MORE (D-Mass.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden blasts FEC Republicans for blocking probe into NRA over possible Russia donations Wyden calls for end to political ad targeting on Facebook, Google Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity MORE (D-Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency Fed to launch real-time payments system in 2023 MORE (D-Md.) also signed the letter. 

Booker and Merkley are also member of the Foreign Relations panel.