The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans deployment of up to 4,000 National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border following an executive order from President Donald Trump. The president’s call to deploy the troops comes after failed efforts in obtaining $18 billion in Congressional funding for a border wall.
Primarily tasked with providing air support through drones and helicopters, troops will also assist in maintaining infrastructure through clearing vegetation and providing assistance in facility maintenance. Surveillance operations through camera and blimp operations also fall under the troops’ purview. Armed patrol and migrant arrests are both specifically excluded from National Guard duties. Still, Pentagon officials reportedly describe “work on infrastructure projects” as part of troop duties, though it’s unclear if this includes work on construction of the wall. Previous National Guard deployments to the border have included barrier construction.
Previous National Guard deployment to the border occurred under both President Barack Obama and also under President George Bush before him. In each of these cases, National Guard deployment came in response to heightened drug violence or governors’ request for federal help on the border. With President Trump’s deployment of the troops, the plan follows a more open-ended direction in a call to “seal up” the border.
“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” the president said.
The president presents the use of the military on the border as a way to shore up security holes. However, the number of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents currently on the job exceeds the number of agents working on the border during President Bush’s tenure. In 2006, for instance, some 11.000 agents deployed the Mexico border. This compares to more than 16,000 agents currently working along the border.
Critics of President Trump’s deployment of the guard say his move is more reactionary than calculated. “The troop deployment appeared to catch military and Homeland Security officials by surprise last week, as President Trump fumed at Mexico over reports that a caravan of more than 1,000 Central American migrants was en route to the U.S. border.”