U.S. planning to send 1,500 more troops to southern border

The Biden administration is planning to send 1,500 more active-duty troops temporarily to the southern border to assist agents ahead of an expected influx of migrants seeking asylum, three U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The move comes as Title 42, the public health law that permits the U.S. to deny asylum and migrations claims for public health reasons, is set to expire on May 11. Some senior U.S. officials say the end of Title 42 could entice more people seeking a better life in America to present themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The service members, mainly coming from Army units, will not have a law enforcement role. They will be armed for self-defense but will be performing monitoring and administrative tasks only, freeing up Border Patrol officials to process migrant claims, the three officials said.

The additional troops, which are being sent to fill a request from the Department of Homeland Security, will fill “critical capability gaps,” including detection and monitoring, data entry and warehouse support, according to one of the officials. They will be there for up to 90 days, after which military reservists or contractors will do the work, two of the officials said.

Hours after POLITICO’s report, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the order in a statement. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is investing in technology and personnel to reduce its need for DoD support in coming years, and we continue to call on Congress to support us in this task,” it reads.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the official request from DHS, sending soldiers to join 2,500 National Guard troops already activated to assist law enforcement at the border.

The National Guard troops already at the border are deployed in active-duty status, which means their mission is funded by the federal government and not their respective states, according to the DoD official. They are assisting border agents with detection and monitoring.

President Joe Biden last week signed an executive order authorizing the administration to call up active-duty forces to address drug trafficking at the southern border, essentially preapproving the mission, the DoD official said. DHS then asked the Pentagon for assistance.

Last week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas previewed how his agency would be stretched by the end of Title 42.

“We have been preparing for this transition for more than a year and a half. Notwithstanding those preparations, we do expect that encounters at our southern border will [be] increasing, as smugglers are seeking to take advantage of this change and already are hard at work spreading disinformation that the border will be open after that,” he told reporters. “High encounters will place a strain on our entire system, including our dedicated and heroic workforce and our communities.”

Biden admin to set up migrant processing centers in Latin America ahead of end of Title 42.

While the politics of the border crisis have shifted in recent years, Biden could be in an awkward spot with members of his own party if he moves ahead. Many Democrats fiercely resisted the Trump administration’s deployment of active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing the move was politically motivated, would harm readiness and service members would be quietly involved in law enforcement.

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