About 1,500 active-duty troops will be deployed to the U.S. southern border to assist Department of Homeland Security personnel in advance of an expected new wave of migrant crossing attempts later this month, according to officials close to the plan.
Under the plan, the soldiers would serve in administrative and logistics roles, and would not have direct contact with immigrants seeking to cross into the United States. Fox News first reported the mission on Tuesday morning.
White House and DHS officials did not return requests for comment on the deployments.
Death, drugs and a disbanded unit: How the Guard’s Mexico border mission fell apart
For much of 2021, there were deep-seated issues with the National Guard's federally-controlled border mission.
By Davis Winkie
The discussions come just a few days ahead of the expiration of certain coronavirus pandemic authorities to regulate border crossings into the United States. The national emergency regarding COVID-19 will end on May 11.
Homeland Security officials and outside advocates have warned that the changes could lead to a rush of migrants attempting to enter the country, particularly along the southern border.
U.S. troops have been deployed in southern states since 2018, when former President Donald Trump first deployed more than 5,000 troops to the region in response to immigration concerns. Trump’s mission initially began with active duty troops, primarily from the Army, but later transitioned to mobilized National Guard members under the Pentagon’s control.
For the pending expansion revealed Tuesday, most of the 1,500 service members going to the border will be from the Army, POLITICO reported.
But under the Guard’s watch, the federally-controlled military border mission suffered from misconduct and leadership problems, exacerbated by undermanned leadership structures and problems getting equipment there, a December 2021 Military Times investigation found. The Pentagon is still yet to disclose the findings of a major investigation into those issues.
It’s not yet clear whether the same command overseeing the federally-mobilized Guard troops along the border — Joint Task Force North — will also gain control of the active duty forces.
The feds’ border deployment is separate from a state-led initiative ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, that began in March 2021. Approximately 4,500 members of the Texas National Guard are assigned to the mission, dubbed Operation Lone Star, which experienced its own endemic issues with pay, benefits and mental health, according to reports by Military Times and The Texas Tribune.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.