BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Congressman Filemon Vela has blasted Presidents Trump’s decision to deploy 5,200 troops on the border in response to a caravan of Central American migrants heading north through Mexico.
The uniformed troops, which will support the Department of Homeland Security and Customs & Border Protection, are likely to be active-duty Army personnel, with perhaps some members of the Army Reserve and Marines, the Department of Defense announced Monday.
There are already 2,100 National Guard members deployed on the border.
“This is a simple political ploy orchestrated by President Trump to create a false sense of hysteria in an effort to appease his white nationalist supporters,” said Vela, D-Brownsville.
“The Nov. 5 (day before the election) roll out date, makes this painfully blatant. It is also an obvious attempt to deflect attention from the Pittsburgh mass murders and the attempted bombings of his political opponents which was clearly inspired by the President’s hate-filled speech.”
The caravan of migrants, estimated to be currently 7,000 people, might eventually reach Brownsville because the U.S. has a Consulate’s Office just across the Rio Grande in Matamoros. At the Consulate’s Office, many of the migrants may attempt to seek asylum, arguing they are escaping gang violence in their home countries.
“If 7,000 people crossed the border at once (which is not going to happen), then one might argue that a small number of military troops for humanitarian and medical purposes might be in ord
er, especially in light of the fact that our non-profit organizations are not adequately staffed or funded to respond to such an event. However, that is not what is happening,” Vela said.
“Trump’s deployment of 5,000 military troops to guard against women and children migrants who will likely never set foot on American soil is totally unnecessary. Trump’s claim that terrorists are looming amongst these migrants has been disclaimed by the President himself. The fact that of all the terrorists who have committed attacks on American soil, not one has crossed via the southern border.”
Viewpoint of Department of Defense
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command, said the deployment of the 5,000 troops was designed to “harden the southern border.”
O’Shaughnessy briefed the press alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan
“Border security is national security,” O’Shaughnessy said, pointing out that the active-duty troops will be participating in Operation Faithful Patriot.
“As we sit here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas,” O’Shaughnessy said. The troops are coming from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“By the end of this week we will deploy over 5,200 soldiers to the Southwest border,” he said. “That is just the start of this operation. We will continue to adjust the numbers and inform you of those.”
The active duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen participating in Operation Guardian Support. The deployment “fully adheres to our current authorities and governed by law and policy,” the general said. The troops that deploy with weapons will carry them, O’Shaughnessy said.
Operation Faithful Patriot will harden the U.S. border with Mexico. “In a macro sense, our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up Southern Texas then Arizona and then California,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We will reinforce along priority points of entry to enhance CBPs ability to harden and secure the border.”
McAleenan said there are two caravans that the agency is watching. One has already made illegal entry across two international borders, and the second – still in Guatemala – “has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams,” he said.
“Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.
Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring their experience to the border, O’Shaughnessy said. They will be joined by three combat engineer battalions with expertise in building temporary barriers and fencing. The battalions will bring their heavy equipment “which as we speak is long hauling toward Texas,” the general said.
Military planning teams are already engaged with CBP counterparts. The military is also providing three medium lift helicopter companies and military police units. There are already three C-130 Hercules and one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft standing by to provide strategic airlift for CBP.
Viewpoint of Congressmen Cuellar and Gonzalez
Vela was not the only border congressman to comment on the deployment of U.S. military on the border.
“This caravan is not the result of a crisis at our border, this is the result of instability, insecurity, and lack of opportunities in Central America. Deploying more of our troops to the U.S.-Mexico Border is not the answer, and it represents the administration’s continued failure to heed the advice of Members of Congress that represent border communities,” said U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen.
Gonzalez said he would like to break down into bullet points what needs to happen, for ease of comprehension:
- We need to fix years of failed American foreign policy: the U.S. and Mexico need to strengthen the dialogue with every neighbor to the south, and develop strategies to decrease gang violence, grow economies, and incentivize these individuals to live and flourish in their native countries.
- Mexico must take responsibility, now. Mexico must protect its southern border and do more to stem irregular migration. Today, I call on Mexico to be a good neighbor and do just that.
- The U.S. must invest in smarter approaches to successfully secure our nation’s border: a fully staffed U.S. Customs and Border Protection; updated technology; aerostats; and drones. We have limitless cost-effective options that do not include misusing funds on an outdated – and primarily symbolic – physical barrier.”
Gonzalez added that he welcomes reasonable and responsible measures that are effective in the long-run and demonstrate a stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
“However, I cannot condone unwarranted troop deployments. The administration needs a greater focus on regional cooperation and a new playbook on border security. They can reach out to me if they need help writing it – I’ll be standing by.”
In a new statement issued Tuesday about the Defense Department’s announcement of Operation Faithful Patriot, Gonzalez said:
“Utilizing active-duty military personnel as a short-term border security solution is a complete and unnecessary waste of federal resources. The Administration should demand that Mexico and Central American countries do more to deter future irregular migration patterns like this. If the Administration will not do it, I plan to personally call the Presidents of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in the next few days to engage them in a discussion to prevent these types of caravans. Taxpayers deserve better than this dog and pony show coming from an Administration pandering to its base days before an election.”
Congressman Cuellar, D-Laredo, issued this statement on the troop deployment:
“Today, the Secretary of Defense approved the President’s request for deploying active duty military units, with over 5,200 personnel, to provide mission-enhancing capabilities along the Southwest Border. This includes combat engineer units, military planning, helicopter companies, medical units, and military police in addition to the previously authorized support to CBP’s Operation Guardian Support mission.
“Although I believe that we need to immediately secure the border, I strongly believe that this starts with ensuring that we implement policies and utilize technology that will have long-term, significant outcomes on the area in a safe and reliable way. This partnership with DOD will help enhance CBP capabilities at, and between, our ports of entry. I will continue to monitor the caravan’s movement and support sensible and sustainable policies to address our border security vulnerabilities.”
Viewpoint of Texas Border Coalition
The Texas Border Coalition (TBC) also weighed in on the Department of Defense’s announcement.
“The United States wouldn’t have to deploy 5,200 active duty military personnel to the Southern border If Congress and previous GOP and Democratic administrations had acted on the Texas Border Coalition’s proposals to overhaul the U.S. land ports to help secure the border while maintaining legitimate trade and travel,” said Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, chairman of TBC.
“TBC agrees with President Trump’s assessment that Washington’s inaction of not addressing solutions to our antiquated border security immigration laws makes our country less secure. But we strongly disagree with his premise that the military will resolve the illegal crossings at the Southern border because refugees will continue to come and turn themselves in until Congress does their job in fixing our broken immigration policies.”
Saenz and TBC added:
“The Southwest border needs greater investments in personnel, technology and infrastructure at the ports of entry – not false efforts that militarize the border, which harm morale and damage the economy of our region. We appreciate the leadership of our border delegation, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, Beto O’Rourke, Henry Cuellar, Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela, who have worked tirelessly toward these goals. TBC will continue to work with Congress and the Trump Administration to achieve immigration and border security outcomes worthy of a great nation.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows elite commandos in Yemen.