Southern Arizona’s two military installations are preparing for an influx of troops being sent to the US-Mexico border, a deployment that President Trump said Wednesday could reach 15,000 service members.
The number of troops, which will assist other federal agencies like the Border Patrol, would be roughly the same size as the U.S. military’s current presence in Afghanistan.
A leaked memo from the Pentagon, sent out on Halloween, informed congressional officers that troops would be sent to the US-Mexico border in a massive military response to caravans of Central American migrants slowly moving toward the United States.
The leaked memo suggests the troops will be moved to bases in Arizona, Texas and California by Monday, Nov. 5, just a day or days before the midterm elections.
The troops will join the roughly 2,000 National Guard troops already deployed to the border in the last six months.
The memo suggested 7,000 troops, but Trump said the number could be higher.
“We’ll go up to anywhere between 10 (thousand) and 15,000 military personnel on top of Border Patrol, ICE and everybody else at the border,” Trump told reporters.
U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva confirmed to the Arizona Daily Star on Wednesday that the Pentagon’s plans include both Davis-Monthan and Fort Huachuca.
Discussions with Pentagon officials include notification that while at least some of the troops reportedly would be staying in base housing, others might sleep in tents at Davis-Monthan.
Grijalva is upset with the announcements coming out of the White House, saying it is offensive to treat the migrant caravans as some invasion requiring a military response.
“These are desperate people, they’re not Middle Eastern terrorists, they’re not MS-13,” Grijalva said Wednesday.
“We shouldn’t lose perspective on the fact that we’re dealing with human beings here.”
Grijalva labeled the decision to send troops to the border less than a week before the midterm elections as political maneuvering.
“I frankly think that they should probably list this as a political contribution to Trump and the Republican Party,” he said.
“When you have nothing else left, you use fear.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is pushing back on suggestions that the move is a political stunt ahead of next week’s elections.
Mattis told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon that the deployment of troops is based on a request from the Department of Homeland Security.
“We don’t do stunts in this department,” he says.
Grijalva urged residents to welcome the men and women from various military bases when they arrive next week.
“Remember that those people in uniform are there following orders,” he said. “If there is blame to be assessed, it’s because the people sent them there, and that’s the president of the United States.”
The commander of U.S. Northern Command described the Pentagon’s “Operation Faithful Patriot” as an effort to help Customs and Border Protection “harden the southern border” by stiffening defenses at and near legal entry points.
Advanced helicopters will allow border protection agents to swoop down on migrants trying to cross illegally, said Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy.
Federal law restricts the military from engaging in law enforcement on American soil. That means the troops will not be allowed to detain immigrants, seize drugs from smugglers or have any direct involvement in stopping the migrant caravans.
Instead, their role will largely mirror that of the existing National Guard troops deployed to the border, including providing helicopter support for border missions, installing concrete barriers and repairing and maintaining vehicles.
The new troops will include military police, combat engineers and helicopter companies equipped with advanced technology to help detect people at night.