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 MattisOvernight Defense: Most VA workers find racism 'moderate to serious problem' at facilities l Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war Trump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war: report Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results MORE, a group of 2020 Democratic hopefuls, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump is fighting the wrong war Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report The Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes MORE (I-Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' Why Joe Biden needs Kamala Harris 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 TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran 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 GillibrandExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill MORE (D-Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition MORE (D-Ore.), who are also considering presidential bids in 2020. 

Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezVOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage Bottom line Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads MORE (D-N.J.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinPPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans MORE (D-Md.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (D-Mass.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (D-Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenExclusive: Democrats seek to increase racial diversity of pandemic relief oversight board Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-Md.) also signed the letter. 

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