President Trump on Wednesday ordered the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to work with the nation’s border governors to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S. Southwest border to help combat a renewed rise in illegal border crossings into the country.
The administration hasn’t finalized troop deployment plans, saying that coordination still must be done with governors of border states. The troops will support U.S Customs and Border Protection, which has responsibility for monitoring legal and illegal entry into the U.S. at and between ports of entry.
“While plans are being finalized, it is our expectation that the National Guard will deploy personnel in support of CBP’s border security mission,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the White House. “It will take time for the deployment to occur but we are moving quickly and we are anxious to have the support.”
Nielsen said the forthcoming deployments and other measures are in response to illegal immigration levels rising to levels seen before when Trump took office in January 2017. By last April, illegal border crossings fell to historic lows but in the first few months of fiscal year 2018, which began last October, the trend in unlawful border crossings has been up significantly, senior administration officials said on a media background call.
The numbers for March, which have yet to be released, show a “staggering” rebound in illegal crossings, “and they clearly emphasize a need for additional actions such as the secretary announced today,” one official said.
CBP knows where it needs help with the troops and is developing its mission requirements and related personnel needs, the official said. The Defense Department will determine the troop levels based on the mission needs, the official added.
As to the authorities the National Guard forces will have, another official said there are a lot of options for how to use the troops for border security, including other missions such as counter-narcotics.
“Regardless, the message to smuggling organizations and to people paying smuggling organizations, ‘Now is not a smart time for folks to be paying that money to come up to the United States,” the official said.
The Trump administration is intent on making illegal immigration a major issue in the mid-term elections this year.
The officials said that the administration will soon send a legislative package to Congress to deal with various immigration loopholes that are incentivizing illegal activity, including the need to speed up removals of illegal aliens. One official expects illegal immigration to be a big issue nationally this spring and summer, saying at one point during the background call that there “is strong resistance within the Democratic party to secure the border,” adding they will have a chance to demonstrate to the American people in the coming days whether the Democratic party wants to officially become the party of open borders and if they decide to become the party of open borders I have a feeling that the American voter will be urging them strongly to reconsider that decision.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the steps that DHS is taking will “keep our country safer.” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the ranking member on the panel, said the president’s statements about deploying troops to the border only “stoke anti-immigration hate.”