The Department of Defense (DOD) will withdraw 1,100 active duty troops supplementing the homeland security mission at the U.S.-Mexico border by Aug. 8, a spokesperson confirmed, after encounters with migrants entering illegally spiked in July.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security authorized 1,500 active duty troops to deploy to the Southern border for a 90-day mission in May, just ahead of an expected surge in migrant crossings. While encounters with illegal migrants dropped initially, apprehensions tracked upwards again in July, and up to 400 soldiers will have their mission extended until the end of August, a DOD spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation on condition of anonymity.
“On July 19th, the secretary authorized up to 400 active duty troops to remain at the [Southwest Border] in support of DHS/[Customs and Border Protection] until August 31. It is my understanding that this authorization came as the result of a request from DHS/CBP for an extension,” the spokesperson said.
At the time of the announcement, Pentagon officials stressed the soldiers would perform behind-the-scenes administrative duties and were not tasked with any “law enforcement work.” Instead, their duties would free up Customs and Border Protection personnel to increase their presence out on the field.
“The up to 400 troops that are being extended will be doing the same, non-law enforcement, support roles that were authorized under the original 90-day authorization,” the spokesperson told the DNCF.
As of this week, the 1,100 troops have begun returning to base, the person added.
DHS anticipated the end Title 42, a Trump-era authority allowing DHS to expel millions of illegal migrants in the name of COVID-19 protections, would open the way for thousands of migrants to flood the border. After Title 42 sunsetted on May 11, apprehensions of illegal migrants dropped from 170,000 in May to under 100,000 in June, according to agency data.
But, illegal migrant encounters jumped to 130,000 again in July, while the U.S. is letting in more migrants through expanded entry programs like CBP One. The Biden administration defended the increase, saying that encounters remained lower than under Title 42, The Washington Post reported.
The end of the active-duty mission does not affect the 2,300 National Guard troops already deployed to the border under federal orders, National Guard chief Gen. Dan Hokanson said, according to The Associated Press.
More red states are also sending National Guard troops to fill capability gaps, including detection and monitoring from the ground, data entry and warehouse support.
DHS did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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