WASHINGTON — The Pentagon announced Sunday a deployment of about 3,750 troops to the U.S. border with Mexico, as President Donald Trump continues to press the need for stronger border security amid a surge in migrants from Central America.
The additional troops will bring the total number of forces supporting the border mission to approximately 4,350, according to estimates provided by the Department of Defense.
The troop deployment, which was approved by Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on Jan. 11, will last for 90 days. The border mission includes mobile surveillance capability as well as the emplacement of approximately 150 miles of concertina wire between ports of entry. The Pentagon first approved the deployment of active-duty troops to the Mexico border in October, on the heels of the U.S. midterm congressional elections.
Trump made the caravan of approximately 3,500 Central American migrants seeking asylum as one of his prime targets ahead of midterm elections. The president has referred to the caravan as an "invasion," while arguing that Democrats want open borders.
The movement of thousands of active-duty troops to the border has been criticized as a political stunt designed to back Trump's campaign promise of securing U.S. ports of entry.
At the time, Secretary of Defense James Mattis downplayed that criticism, saying that the Pentagon is providing "practical support based on the request from the commissioner of customs and border police. We don't do stunts in this department," he added.
The latest revelation comes on the heels of a partial government shutdown stemming from the impasse over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to construct a border wall.
In an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation," Trump said that shutting down the federal government again and declaring a national emergency are options he's considering when addressing the border security issue.
"It's national emergency, it's other things and you know there have been plenty national emergencies called. And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers," Trump said in an interview set to broadcast on Sunday.
"We're going to have a strong border. And the only way you have a strong border is you need a physical barrier. You need a wall. And anybody that says you don't, they're just playing games," he added.