Top Senate Armed Services Dem: Sending troops to border 'unwise, unproductive'

Top Senate Armed Services Dem: Sending troops to border 'unwise, unproductive'
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The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday dismissed President TrumpDonald John TrumpPaul Ryan defends Navy admiral after Trump's criticism Trump discussing visit overseas to troops following criticism: report Retired Army General: Trump is ‘acting like an 8th grader’ in attacking ex-Navy SEAL who led bin Laden operation MORE’s decision to send thousands of active duty troops to the southern border as “unwise, unproductive” and likely a political show.

“Your decision to rush thousands of our troops to the border at this time seems politically motivated and fails to implement reasonable and appropriate steps to address the true nature of the problem,” Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedTrump stokes new unlikely feud Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny Dems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man MORE (R.I.) wrote in a letter to the president.

“This is not a military problem; it does not warrant a military solution.”

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Reed said that, while he supports border security, he believes the best way to achieve such a goal is through “comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform and effectively allocating our national security dollars.” 

Trump last week ordered the Defense Department to deploy active duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to counter to a caravan of several thousand Central American migrants still weeks away from reaching the United States.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisUS Customs stops traffic into country at key border point of entry Trump and Congress on collision course with military spending Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE approved a request for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security to send the troops as part of Operation Faithful Patriot.

The Pentagon this week began deploying more than 5,200 troops to Texas, Arizona and California, with another roughly 2,000 on standby.

Defense officials have not given a cost estimate for the deployment, nor specified the national security threat at the border. 

Reed criticized the administration for failing to provide “indication to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the migrant caravan — still about 1,000 miles and weeks away from reaching the U.S. southern border — poses a direct national security threat to the United States.”

Instead of redirecting troops from their current missions, Trump should “first exhaust all diplomatic and humanitarian means,” he added.

Reed also said Trump’s recent caravan comments “mischaracterize the situation, are unlikely to achieve effective border security, and do not reflect the best attributes of our country.”

Trump in the past month has increasingly portrayed the caravan as a national security threat as midterm elections creep closer. With the midterm elections on Tuesday and control of the House and Senate in the balance, the president has painted the group of mostly women and children as full of dangerous individuals.

And on Wednesday, Trump said that he might deploy up to 15,000 service members to stop people from the "very dangerous" caravan from crossing the border.

Administration officials have defended the move to send troops, including Mattis, who on Wednesday pushed back on criticisms that the deployment was a political stunt from the Trump administration.

“We don’t do stunts in this department,” Mattis told reporters.

In his letter, Reed urges Trump to provide a full account of the financial costs of the troop border deployment “as well as the impacts it will have on any ongoing military missions.”

And rather than troop deployment, Reed asks that Trump “send an appropriate team of diplomatic and Homeland Security Department officials to southern Mexico to inform the migrants that they will not be permitted to simply enter the United States.”

He also said the president should provide “a commitment of support and assistance” to the Mexican government and refugee agencies seeking to provide food and temporary shelter for the migrants, as well as “offer to help enhance the ability of the Mexican government to process any asylum claims.”

These steps “would demonstrate leadership and strength rather than fear and weakness when it comes to protecting our border,” Reed concludes.