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US will deploy 1,500 troops to meet surge of migrants at Mexico border

The activation of armed forces will free up Border Patrol agents for processing duties.

(CN) — Gearing up for what is expected to be an influx of migrants later this month, the Pentagon signed off Tuesday on plans to send 1,500 active-duty troops temporarily to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some 2,500 National Guard personnel already work at the border, and the Department of Homeland Security emphasized that the added troops will perform non-law enforcement duties, including monitoring, data entry and warehouse support. The troops will have no direct interactions with migrants.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin authorized the deployment on Tuesday, and the troops could start arriving as early as May 10, Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the troops will free up Border Patrol agents to deal with migrants.

“This is a common practice,” she said. “We would love to be able to have more resources at the border to do the critical work that is needed, but the reason why we’re moving in this direction … is because Congress has not acted.”

The proposal comes ahead of the May 11 expiration of the Trump-era Title 42 border policy, implemented at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which allows for quicker expulsion of migrants on public health grounds before they can seek asylum and has been used more than 2 million times.

"U.S. Customs and Border Protection is investing in technology and personnel to reduce its need for DoD support in coming years, and we continue to call on Congress to support us in this task,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

Amid concerns that the expiration of Title 42 will entice more people to come to the Southern border, the Biden administration announced last week it would establish immigration processing centers in Latin America to intercept potential migrants before they reach the U.S.

The 1,500 additional troops will be deployed for 90 days, Homeland Security noted. Ryder said the forces will come from the Army and Marine Corps, and the Pentagon will seek ways to replace active-duty troops with contractors or reserve units during the deployment.

“Calling up reserve component forces requires some time and so by tasking the active-duty forces we’re able to quickly respond to this request,” Ryder said.

Each of the last three administrations all sent troops to the border. Under former President Barack Obama, with Joe Biden as vice president, Washington sent up to 1,200 troops to the border for a year.

Last year marked the first time in U.S. history that the U.S. saw 2 million people arrested as they attempted to cross into the country from Mexico illegally. The country is on track to do so again, having logged over 1 million such encounters in the last six months.

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