White House sends 5,200 more troops to U.S.-Mexico border as 'caravan' heads north

Officials with the departments of Homeland Security and Defense announced the deployments Monday at a press conference.

White House sends 5,200 more troops to U.S.-Mexico border as 'caravan' heads north
(Photo: PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Two large groups of migrants are currently traveling north through Mexico toward the U.S.
  • About 5,200 U.S. troops will be sent to supplement 2,100 National Guardsmen already assisting officials at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Officials said migrants will be treated humanely, but won't be allowed to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Trump administration plans to deploy 5,200 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of week amid concerns that two large groups of migrants traveling north from South and Central America could soon cross into the U.S. illegally.

Dubbed Faithful Patriot, the operation will supplement the approximately 2,100 National Guardsmen who've recently been positioned in southern states to aid border officials. They're preparing for the arrival of the so-called "caravan", which refers to at least one group of approximately 3,000 to 4,000 migrants, many of whom are Honduran, slowly making their way on foot and by car toward the U.S.

Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin K. McAleenan said the migrants are heading north under the false impression that they'll be allowed to stay.

"Our message to the organizers and participants of this caravan is simple," McAleenan said. "As the president and [Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen] have made clear, we will not allow a large group to enter the United States in an unlawful and unsafe manner. For those that seek to cross the border illegally, we will apprehend them and fully enforce the laws of the United States."

He suggested that migrants seeking to make asylum claims go through the proper channels, or accept asylum in Mexico's southern states, which was offered to caravan members by the Mexican government last week. About 1,000 migrants have applied for asylum in Mexico so far.

Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the chief of U.S. Northern Command, said Faithful Patriot will include helicopters outfitted with night vision, cargo aircrafts and troops specialized in logistics, medical treatment and aviation.

"We'll be able to spot and identify groups and rapidly deploy CBP personnel where they are needed," he said.

"As we sit right here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas right now. They're coming from Fort Campbell. They're coming from Fort Knox. They're moving closer to the border. They're going to continue their training, and they're ready to deploy to actually be employed on the border."

Honduran migrants heading in a caravan to the US, walk alongside the road in Huixtla on their way to Mapastepec Chiapas state, Mexico, on October 24, 2018. (Photo: PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

A second group of several thousand migrants, many of whom are Salvadorans fleeing corruption and violence, is also heading north, currently near the Guatemala-Mexico border. On Monday, both groups were at least 900 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The migrants vary by nationality, aspirations and age, but all seem to agree that safety is best achieved in numbers.

"In a caravan, you are united. If something happens to you, someone will help you," Salvadoran migrant Jessica Yamileth Zabaleta Guzman, 24, who's traveling with her partner and their one-year-old son, told The Washington Post.

Trump's response

With the midterms approaching, President Donald Trump has been ramping up his rhetoric on illegal immigration, which is the highest-ranked national problem among GOP voters, according to the Pew Research Center. In addition to comparing the caravan with "an invasion," Trump suggested last week that the caravan includes "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners."

However, Trump was unable to back up this claim with evidence when pressed by reporters.

"There's no proof of anything," he said. "But they could very well be."

On Monday, Trump again claimed there to be a significant criminal element within the caravan.

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