The Pentagon will send another 320 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border for roles that include “monitoring the welfare of individuals” in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, according to a Department of Defense (DOD) statement released Monday.
“Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanSenators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee Biden Pentagon pick could make up to .7M from leaving Raytheon MORE has approved a Department of Homeland Security request for DoD support in response to the humanitarian crisis at the border,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in the statement.
“DoD personnel will assist in driving high-capacity CBP vehicles to transport migrants; providing administrative support, including providing heating, meal distribution and monitoring the welfare of individuals in CBP custody; and attorney support to [Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)],” Davis added.
Shanahan’s approval of the additional personnel eases restrictions on troops interacting with migrants entering the country.
Under a 2006 policy that was in effect until Monday, military personnel were prohibited from coming into contact with migrants. However, a waiver was provided last year to allow troops to provide emergency medical care.
The new change will also allow military lawyers, cooks and drivers to help with handling migrants entering the United States.
The notice stresses that the additional personnel will not perform any law enforcement functions.
"In any situation that requires DoD personnel to be in proximity to migrants, DHS law enforcement personnel will be present to conduct all custodial and law enforcement functions, and provide force protection of military personnel," it stated.
The roughly 320 DOD personnel will provide assistance through Sept. 30 at an estimated cost of $7.4 million.
The new troops join the now roughly 3,000 active-duty service members already at the southern border. Trump first deployed troops last year to assist in addressing a migrant caravan traveling to the United States from Central America.
Those troops are in addition to about 2,000 National Guard members who were deployed in April 2018 to assist in border security.