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The Biden administration will deploy 1,500 additional military personnel to augment security at the southern border, U.S. officials said Tuesday, as the looming end of pandemic-era immigration policies has officials bracing for a surge in illegal crossings.
The Department of Homeland Security requested the a temporary increase to supplement Customs and Border Protection’s efforts, a U.S. official said. The deployment is expected to last 90 days and the troops involved will not conduct law enforcement work, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity citing ongoing interagency discussions.
Rather, the official said, service members will fill “critical capability gaps, such as ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry, and warehouse support, until CBP can address these needs” through contracted staff.
U.S. officials are expecting illegal crossings to grow past 10,000 per day when the pandemic-era border policy known as Title 42 ends May 11.
The Title 42 measures were put in place at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, giving U.S. border agents the ability to rapidly expel migrants back to their home countries or to Mexico. Since then federal authorities have used the measures to carry out more than 2.6 million expulsions.
President Biden has faced pressure from immigrant advocates and some Democrats to end the restrictions and restore full access to the U.S. immigration system for asylum seekers. But previous attempts by the administration to lift Title 42 were blocked in federal court after Republican state officials sued the administration, arguing a migrant surge will strain their budgets.
Barring a last-minute court ruling, standard immigration rules at the border will once more be in effect starting at midnight May 12.
U.S. military personnel have augmented federal border operations for years. The 1,500 troops whose deployment was announced Tuesday will join another 2,500 service members already assigned to the southern border, a second U.S. official said. Those figures do not include the Texas National Guard members mobilized for a state-led mission called Operation Lone Star.
The supplemental deployment will include some active duty service members, the second U.S. official said, because they can mobilize most quickly. As the operation unfolds, National Guard troops and military reservists are expected to join the mission, too.
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