On the orders of U.S. President Donald Trump, the Pentagon is sending over 5,000 troops to the border with Mexico as thousands of Central American migrants seeking asylum continue their journey north through Mexico.
General Terrence O'Shaughnessy said “Operation Faithful Patriot” would focus on Texas, Arizona and California and would approximately begin on November 5 and go on until December 15.
This boost in troops comes six months after 2,100 National Guard members were sent to the border, after a previous request by Trump in April.
President Trump in a tweet said that "many gang members" and some "very bad people" were part of the "caravan".
"Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process," the US president said, adding,"this is an invasion of our country and our military is waiting for you!"
Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
Trump’s ramping up the rhetoric comes not as migrants converge on the border but as just one week remains to the US midterm elections. The results of the midterm elections will obviously impact Trump’s remaining time in office – be it positive or negative.
Officials emphasize that despite Trump’s intention of sending troops to the border, the U.S. military is not bracing for battle. These troops are not expected to come into regular contact with migrants. They will be tasked with providing "mission-enhancing capabilities" along the southwest border, supporting US Customs and Border Protection's work there.
But despite this boost in manpower on the border, there is a limit to what the US military forces can do to help at the border. There's a law that dates back more than a century known as "posse comitatus" that bars active-duty US troops from domestic law enforcement without authorization. Other laws and regulations have further clarified that troops can't participate in activities such as making arrests and conducting searches, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.
In past US border operations, officials have said troops can't do the following:
- Arrest people
- Seize drugs
- Conduct searches
But as cynical this sounds, the troops being sent to the border are not as much for national security as it is for Donald Trump to score political points with his supporters ahead of the elections. The migrants are still around 1,600km from the US border and are mostly making their journey on foot so it will be weeks before they reach the point where they can apply to seek asylum in the U.S.