President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on Wednesday to send National Guard troops to the southern border with Mexico. The president sees the deployment as part of a broad border security plan to prevent illegal immigration before his proposed wall is built. However, three administration officials say that it’s very unlikely that the troops will have any contact with immigrants.
A statement released by the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the deployment. The statement says that the US National Guard troops will serve as a deterrent to illegal immigration. The troops will also help enhance operational control in the US-Mexico border. The exact number of troops to be deployed and how long they will stay at the border is not known yet. The Department of Homeland Security is expected to work out the logistics in the coming days.
The department also called on Congress to tighten the current “loopholes” in the US immigration system. According to Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the loopholes are making it very difficult for the administration to end the so-called “catch and release” practice that allows illegal immigrants to be released from custody while they await trial.
The US National Guard deployment was also backed by the Justice Department through Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The former Alabama senator expressed support towards the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense for their efforts to secure US borders. Sessions also confirmed that the Department of Justice will be announcing additional measures to restore “legality” on the southern border.
However, the role of National Guard troops is expected to be very limited. Senior DHS officials say that the troops will provide surveillance support through air and camera monitoring systems. They will not be involved in processing immigrants nor will they come into any direct contact with them. It’s not the first time though that the National Guard is being deployed on the US-Mexican border.
Former President George W. Bush did the same thing back in 2006. The deployment dubbed “Operation Jump Start” involved a total of 6,000 soldiers. Under the plan, the National Guard was not allowed to use force unless they were provoked. The troops didn’t have the authority to apprehend immigrants. They were solely involved in intelligence gathering and surveillance. Barack Obama also deployed the National Guard troops on the border in 2010 to provide air surveillance. The troops worked jointly with federal authorities but their role was very small.
Illegal border crossings along the US-Mexico border have increased sharply over the last few months. The president has lashed out in response on Twitter saying that the caravans of illegal immigrants heading towards the US must be stopped. The president also closed the window on a possible deal for DACA, an Obama-era immigration policy that offers protections to undocumented immigrants who came into the US as children. Senior White House officials have confirmed that the administration will send a new and more radical legislation to Congress over the next few days.