The Pentagon is sending 800 or more additional troops to the Southwest border in response to President Donald Trump’s vow to use the military to block a caravan of Central American immigrants from entering the United States, a U.S. official said.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis is expected to sign an order Thursday dispatching the troops. They will be limited to providing logistical support to the Border Patrol, which will remain responsible for apprehending anyone crossing the border illegally, the official said.
Trump said in a tweet Thursday that he was “bringing out the military” to secure the border, calling it a “national emergency.”
Trump has seized on the immigration issue ahead of next month’s midterm election, but illegal immigration this year is on pace to be lower than all but four of the previous 45 years.
The military personnel are expected to aid the Border Patrol by building fencing at several key points where it is believed the migrants may try to cross, the official said.
The troops will also assist the Border Patrol with vehicles, tents and possibly medical support, the official said.
The additional troops are expected to arrive along the border beginning next week.
Pentagon officials said they are still working out where the troops will come from and where along the border they will go. Most of them are likely to be drawn from National Guard units, though some active-duty troops may be sent as well.
It’s unclear whether the troops will be armed, though Pentagon officials say they always retain the right to defend themselves.
There already are about 2,000 National Guard troops assisting at the border under a previous Pentagon operation.
Restricting the troops to a support role means they would not violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the federal government from using the military in a domestic policing role.
On Monday, Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans received a suspended sentence of 60 days in jail, said Samantha Dooies, an assistant to the New Hanover County District Attorney.
Evans must complete 18 months of unsupervised probation, pay $8,000 in restitution, complete a domestic violence offenders program, and he cannot have any contact with his former girlfriend, Dooies told Task & Purpose. The special operations Marine is also only allowed to have access to firearms though the military while on base or deployed.
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
U.S. troops rejoice — the midnight curfew for service members in South Korea has been temporarily suspended, as command evaluates if you can be trusted to not act like wild animals in the streets of Pyeongtaek.