WASHINGTON — The newest deployment of active-duty troops to the U.S.- Mexico border should begin next week once the Department of Homeland Security decides where it most needs bodies and support, defense officials said Wednesday.
The planning for the deployment of 3,750 active troops — announced on Super Bowl Sunday — will boost the number of active troops at the border to 4,350.
“The specific units and locations are still being finalized,” Maj. Mark Lazane, a spokesperson for U.S. Northern Command, told TMN in an email.
While the units to be part of that deployment are being decided, the Pentagon is shifting 250 troops already assisting DHS on border operations in Arizona to bolster the Eagle Pass, Texas point of entry.
According to news reports, a group of about 1,600 Central American migrants camped Tuesday in Piedras Negras, Mexico, which is just west of Eagle Pass.
“In response to migrant caravan activity currently approaching the Texas border, DHS/CBP (Customs and Border Protection) has requested DoD support to reinforce the Eagle Pass, TX Ports of Entry (POEs),” Capt. William Speakes, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in an email to reporters.
“This personnel includes military police and medical personnel from current border security support missions in Arizona, and engineers who will support hardening of these POEs,” Speakes said. “This support is being provided under existing authorities and in accordance with previously-approved requests for support. DoD continues to work closely with CBP to assess the situation and determine how best to support CBP’s mission needs.”
The shuffling of active troops came as the newly inaugurated governor of New Mexico announced that state’s National Guard troops would withdraw from the border mission.
Roughly 2,200 National Guard troops are helping DHS on the four-state border under “Operation Guardian Support.” That deployment started last April and is open-ended.
In a statement released by her office Tuesday night shortly before President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishman said: “New Mexico will not take part in the president’s charade of border fear-mongering by misusing our diligent National Guard troops.”
She ordered the 118 New Mexico guard forces still at the border back to civilian life, leaving about a dozen in the southwest corner of the state to continue participation in humanitarian activities, according to news reports. She also upgraded the duties of state police to help local law enforcement, according to news reports.
Simultaneously Lujan Grishman ordered 25 Guard troops from other states to depart from the New Mexico border.
The Pentagon did not have a comment on the governor’s action.
There are no active-duty forces on the New Mexico-Mexico border, one of the desolate sections of the divide between the two nations.
Active forces first arrived at the border on Oct. 31, 2018, as part of the then-named Operation Faithful Patriot, Lazane said in the email to TMN. He said the deployment number peaked at around 5,800 but did not have a specific time frame for those numbers.