The Homeland Security and Defense Departments announced the deployment of thousands of troops to the Southwest U.S. border in anticipation of the arrival of large migrant caravans.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Monday at a press conference at the Defense Department that these "enhanced operations" are in direct response to the two large migrant caravans traveling through Mexico and Central America — including the record 3,500 strong group in southern Mexico and another made up of approximately 3,000 migrants that recently formed and that is now at the Guatemala-Mexico border.
In addition, McAleenan noted that, on a daily basis, almost 1,900 individuals are apprehended attempting to cross the southern border illegally or coming to a port of entry without documentation. He said half of these individuals are part of family units. Among those illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, McAleenan stressed, are criminals and "hardened smugglers." He added that the country's immigration system makes it difficult for the government to expatriate these individuals.
CBS News' David Martin reported Monday that the plan, Operation Faithful Patriot, calls for sending 1,800 troops to Texas, 1,200 to Arizona and 1,500 to California. However, officials say no final decisions have been made, and the numbers could go higher. These numbers mark an increase over the initial estimate last week that 800 troops would be deployed. There is not yet a cost estimate for this operation.
McAleenan said the formation of multiple large groups — like the migrant caravans — present new security threats. He claimed that the caravan at the Guatemala-Mexico border is employing "violent and dangerous" tactics. And he emphasized that, as President Donald Trump has made clear, the U.S. will not allow a large group to enter the country illegally, and advised migrants to seek asylum in Mexico, where he said the government is offering migrants protection and employment authorization.