The U.S. military is set to deploy about 5,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist with the Trump administration’s response to a so-called migrant caravan of asylum seekers, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The number represents a significant increase over the initial estimate of 800 that several news outlets reported last week.
“Planning is still underway,” Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said in a statement to The Hill. “It remains premature to speculate total numbers or specific forces to be selected to accomplish the requested missions."
The statement said the military will help U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with planning, engineering such as fencing and other barriers, aircraft to move CBP personnel, medical treatment for migrants, command and control, housing for CBP and protective equipment for Border Patrol officers.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him Sunday, Mattis said the Pentagon was in the planning stages of the mission.
“What's the material requirement, how many troops are needed, break it down like that,” Mattis said. “The meetings are going on. The orders are being drafted and some material is moving, construction-type material, 30 barriers, that sort of thing that they may need. We anticipate from what they thought they'll need. I'll come back to you when we have it finalized, the details, the rules that the troops will be under, I'll give that. I do not have that at this time.”
President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE has been infuriated by a group of roughly 4,000 migrants that are traveling from Central America to the United States. The caravan is currently traversing Mexico.
On Monday, Trump tweeted that the caravan is an “invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
The U.S. military is barred by statute from enforcing U.S. laws, including immigration laws, on U.S. soil.
About 2,100 National Guardsmen are currently deployed near the border as part of orders issued in April amid Trump’s frustration at the lack of progress on his proposed border wall. The guardsmen have been working in a support capacity away from any immigrants.
The 5,000 new troops will likely initially be deployed to the ports of entry as part of a mission the Pentagon has named Operation Faithful Patriot, according to the Journal.
About 1,800 troops will go to Texas, 1,700 to Arizona and 1,500 to California, the Journal reported. They will come from about 10 Army installations, with some Marines as well, and largely be military police and engineers, the paper added.
Some of the troops have already begun to deploy, with deployments expected to last until mid-December, the Journal added.