As was expected according to myriad reports Thursday, on Friday the Pentagon confirmed that around 800 troops will be deployed to the border with Mexico. This will include both active duty troops and National Guard troops, and will join 2,100 National Guard troops already there.
Exactly what the troops will be going isn’t entirely clear. Some reports say they are strictly to be setting up barricades and temporary barriers to prevent Latin Americans from getting into the country. The Pentagon also mentioned helicopters would be sent for the sake of moving personnel.
But the 2,100 National Guard troops already there have had their mission panned as mostly useless to border security, and adding another 800 to that mission doesn’t seem likely to change much.
Pentagon officials downplayed the seriousness of the mission, saying they don’t intend the troops to engage in direct border enforcement. Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, however, insisted that the US has “a sovereign right” to use the troops to capture immigrants, adding “we do not have any intention right now to shoot at people.”
President Trump has been increasingly desperate in calling for crackdowns on the border, terming it a “national emergency.” It’s not clear, however, that the public would react positively to a kinetic military operation along the US border involving casualties among civilian migrants, despite dubious claims from Vice President Pence that some are liable to be from the Middle East.