WASHINGTON — About 550 active-duty U.S. troops have begun arriving along the U.S.-Mexico border in the first military support group ahead of an expected surge in migrants, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.
The troop movement is part of efforts to bolster security along the southern border as the United States prepares for the end of immigration restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Those restrictions will expire on Thursday, leading to concerns that it will result in more migrants trying to enter the United States starting Friday.
The forces will be used primarily to help monitor and police the border, or to input data and provide support, and “they are not there in any way to interact with migrants,” Briga said. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary. The goal is to free US Customs and Border Protection personnel to carry out law enforcement activities.
“They needed help running some of those back-shop type requirements so they could focus on the law enforcement aspect of this,” Ryder said.
At least some of the active-duty troops will be used near El Paso, he said, adding that the CBP will decide where the forces go.
More than 900 additional Soldiers, Marines and Airmen will follow in late May. The initial plan calls for a 90-day temporary deployment of active-duty forces, because they can be moved much more quickly to the border than National Guard or Reserve troops.
United States and international law give migrants the right to seek asylum. However, the United States has used Title 42 of a public health law to deport migrants without asylum possibilities 2.8 million times since March 2020 for reasons of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Biden administration has said it is ready to deal with whatever happens after the end of the use of Title 42, although it has also repeatedly criticized Congress for failing to make changes to the country’s immigration system.
“We believe we have a solid process to address what happens after Title 42 is lifted. Again, we are using the tools at our disposal because Congress refuses to do its job related to the border,” he said Tuesday White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Approximately 2,500 National Guard personnel are already spread across all sectors of the border, providing a range of support to the CBP, including tracking, surveying and airlift.
Separately, Texas National Guard troops are also working along the border under state authority. Ryder said active duty troops will be serving an entirely separate mission.
Even with COVID-19 asylum restrictions still in place, the administration has seen a record number of people crossing the border. President Joe Biden has responded by cracking down on those who cross illegally and by creating new routes meant to offer alternatives to a dangerous and often deadly journey.
Some locations across the border are already seeing an influx of migrants, often spurred by false information from smugglers or widespread rumors about what the Title 42 changes will mean for their chances of staying in the U.S.
Officers in the relatively quiet El Centro, Calif., sector of the Border Patrol stopped about 260 migrants a day over a four- to five-day period through Sunday, up from about 90 a day the previous week, Gregory Bovino said. the sector head.
It’s unclear what’s driving the increase other than the anticipation that pandemic restrictions are about to end, Bovino said in an interview.
“We see these surges whenever there’s a major event or news story,” he said. “We don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t say there will be a massive surge on Friday.”
The main nationalities crossing the El Centro sector illegally are from Peru, Colombia and Senegal, Bovino said. On Monday, officers found migrants from 22 countries.
Also on Tuesday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and President Joe Biden spoke by phone. Because Mexico shares an approximately 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border with the United States, it is key to the success of any U.S. plan to control immigration at its southern border. The Mexican president said the two talked for over an hour.
“We reaffirmed our commitment to continue working together on issues such as migration with a humanistic perspective, drug and arms trafficking and, above all, cooperation for the welfare of the poorest people on our continent,” he said.