Pentagon declined White House request for troops to build border detention facilities: report

The Pentagon denied a White House request to allow the U.S. military to build facilities to house detained migrants at the U.S-Mexico border, Reuters reported Monday.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the Defense Department rejected the preliminary request, which would have been part of its new mission on the southern border.

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The Pentagon also, late last month, declined a request from the Trump administration to allow troops to perform emergency law enforcement tasks along the border weeks ahead of the arrival of thousands of migrants preparing to apply for asylum in the U.S.

In that instance, the White House requested a reserve force authorized to provide "crowd and traffic control" to areas along the border and protect Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel.  

The Pentagon rejected the request on Oct. 26 as the department felt that the tasks fell outside active duty soldiers' authority.

The two rejected requests highlight the disconnect between the White House and the Pentagon over the use of military resources to bolster border security.

President Trump has sought to make immigration the central issue of Tuesday’s midterm election in an effort to drive his core supporters to the polls and save Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

The administration last month directed the Pentagon to deploy active-duty troops to the border.

The Department of Defense then announced the deployment of more than 5,200 active-duty service members to the southern border — which later jumped to 7,000 — to join the nearly 2,100 National Guardsmen already stationed at the border to assist Homeland Security personnel.

Trump said later that he could deploy as many as 15,000 troops to the border in total, more service members than the U.S. currently has stationed in Afghanistan.

The president further enflamed tensions last week when he said that the military would treat any rocks or stones being thrown by asylum-seeking migrants at the border as firearms.

“They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” the president said. “We’ll consider — and I told them — consider it a rifle,” Trump said Thursday.

Trump a day later walked back those comments and said the migrants would be arrested and not fired upon by troops.