The Department of Defense is planning to spend $7.4 million on a troop mission at the United States-Mexico border that includes feeding and caring for migrants and border crossers, the agency announced Monday afternoon.
The mission will involve sending 320 more U.S. troops heading to the southern border to help Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents take care of migrants who have crossed the U.S. border.
Defense Department officials described the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) request for more aid for migrants as necessary in dealing with the “humanitarian crisis” at the southern border.
Aside from helping to feed and care for migrants, the Defense Department mission will also include busing and transporting border crossers in the U.S. Federal officials made clear that troops will not perform any law enforcement functions:
DoD personnel will assist in driving high-capacity CBP vehicles to transport migrants; providing administrative support, including providing heating, meal distribution and monitoring the welfare of individuals in CBP custody; and attorney support to ICE. [Emphasis added]
DoD personnel will not perform any law enforcement functions. In any situation that requires DoD personnel to be in proximity to migrants, DHS law enforcement personnel will be present to conduct all custodial and law enforcement functions, and provide force protection of military personnel. [Emphasis added]
A defense official said, “monitoring the welfare of individuals” means U.S. troops will conduct walk-throughs and check to see if migrants are OK, but are not going to have interaction with them. If any interaction is needed, troops would contact DHS, the official said.
DHS is still determining where this support will be needed. The location will determine whether the support would apply to migrant children, adults, or families, the official said.
The Defense Department support will be required through September 20, 2019, at an estimated cost to U.S. taxpayers of about $7.4 million. The Pentagon will foot the bill at first, but be reimbursed by the DHS later.
DHS’s additional aid for migrants and border crossers comes as the U.S.-Mexico border has been inundated with record levels of illegal immigration.
Last month, alone, more than 92,000 border crossers were apprehended at the border. Experts have projected that at current rates, illegal immigration this year could outpace every year of the Bush and Obama administrations with potentially 1.28 million border crossers and illegal aliens entering the country.