Hours after reiterating his call to use military force to halt the caravan of Central American asylum seekers slowly working its way through Mexico toward the United States, multiple reports say that Secretary of Defense James Mattis will order approximately 800 troops to the southern border to act against what he has repeatedly claimed is a “National Emergency.”
The newly deployed troops will join over 2,000 National Guard soldiers already stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border, whose assignment focuses on “aviation, engineer, surveillance, communications, vehicle maintenance and logistics support,” according to a Department of Defense statement issued this past spring.
What that looks like on the ground is decidedly more mundane than the D-Day-esque imagery conjured to mind by the president’s tweets. Per a Politico investigation from July, the National Guard soldiers currently deployed are largely kept away from the border itself, are typically unarmed, and are generally utilized as support staff to free up actual border patrol agents from otherwise unglamorous work. “In one assignment,” Politico noted, “soldiers are actually feeding and shoveling out manure from the stalls of the Border Patrol’s horses.”
While the official order has yet to be signed by Mattis, CNN has reported that these newly dispatched troops “are expected to provide fencing, wall materials and other technical support at several key points along the border where it is believed the migrants may try to cross.”
Accordingly, they will “not engage in lethal operations to stop the migrants,” CNN noted.
Meanwhile, the thousands-strong caravan of Central American asylum seekers—who, to be clear, are attempting to enter the United States via a legal method—remains hundreds of miles from the U.S. Mexico border, and may not arrive at the United States for several more weeks.