WASHINGTON (CN) – In an effort to cut down on illegal immigration, the Trump administration plans to send National Guard troops to the southern border, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday.
“Border security is homeland security, which is national security,” Nielsen said during the White House press briefing Wednesday. “It’s not a partisan issue. It’s not something we can separate out. It’s core to being a sovereign nation.”
The announcement comes the day after President Donald Trump hinted at the move during comments to reporters at a lunch with leaders of Baltic countries. During that meeting, Trump said the administration was “going to be guarding our border with the military” and said he had already discussed the plan with Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Senior administration officials said the administration has not yet finalized the number of troops that will go to the border, adding that federal agencies are still working with governors to iron out details of when and how to best deploy their forces.
The officials denied that Trump’s comments on Tuesday sped up Wednesday’s announcement, saying the deployment effort requires significant coordination between federal agencies and state governments and that the necessary agreements between the two are still being drafted.
While immigration advocates note illegal border crossings have reached historic lows, senior administration officials say new data shows a resurgence in recent months.
In addition to the wave of National Guard troops, a senior administration official said the White House plans to lobby Congress to pass bills that will make it easier to deport certain people who are living in the country illegally.
Immigration advocacy groups condemned the Trump administration’s plan to send troops to the border, calling it unnecessary and potentially dangerous.
“Sending our military to the border would be irresponsible and contrary to the armed forces’ constitutional role,” Astrid Dominguez, the director of the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement. “It is also unnecessary because there is no border security crisis despite television alarmism about migrants fleeing repression. Our border region has been highly militarized in the last decade and 15 million border residents have been negatively impacted by Trump’s deportation force and his cruel enforcement policies carried out by more than 16,000 border patrol agents.”