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Homeland Security

White House: US to Deploy National Guard to Southern Border

By William Gallo April 04, 2018

White House officials on Wednesday laid out plans to send National Guard troops to the United States' southern border with Mexico, as part of President Donald Trump's efforts to confront what he says is a growing problem with illegal immigrants.

The decision to deploy the U.S. military to the border represents a new aspect of Trump's wide-ranging immigration crackdown. But major parts of the move are unclear, including how many troops will be sent, when they will deploy, or what exactly they will do.

"It will take time to have the details in place, but we are beginning today and are moving quickly," said Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. "We are anxious to have this support."

White House officials say Trump will sign a proclamation authorizing the move. However, states must also approve the decision before deploying their guard members.

In the U.S., the active duty military is generally restricted from domestic law enforcement functions, which would include apprehending border crossers. However, U.S. presidents have deployed the National Guard to the border to act in support roles.

Nielsen said the National Guard troops will help with border surveillance and other "support functions." She declined to say how large the force would be, but she did say it would include "as many [troops] as is needed to fill the gaps today."

Trump repeatedly has threatened to deploy the military to help secure the border, especially as a caravan of Central American migrants makes it way north through Mexico, with some headed for the U.S.

In an early Wednesday tweet, Trump promised "strong action" on immigration and lamented what he says are "very weak" U.S. border laws

A group of around 1,200 migrants from Central America has been making a 2,000-kilometer (1,200-mile) journey from the Mexico-Guatemala border. Some say they are headed to the U.S. to seek asylum.

Mexican officials say the caravan has begun to disperse, but some participants say they are going to continue.

Although many of the migrants are fleeing violence, Trump has portrayed the caravan as a national security and economic threat, and he has vowed that it must be stopped.

Those in the caravan "thought they were going to just walk right through Mexico and right through the border" into the United States, explained Trump, who praised a quick response from Mexico, which he said was acting to ensure it is "all being broken up."

Mexico reportedly has offered refugee status to some of the migrants.

Trump earlier had warned Mexico that its free trade agreement with its northern neighbor would be jeopardized if it did not stop the caravan before it reached the U.S. border.

Securing the southern border was a centerpiece of Trump's platform during his 2016 campaign for the presidency, and something he continues to frequently mention.

"The Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws," asserted Trump on Tuesday. "We don't have laws. We have catch and release. You catch and then you immediately release. And people come back years later for a court case, except they virtually never come back."

Trump has continually emphasized the need for a border wall — which on Tuesday he said must be "700 [1,127 kilometers] to 800 miles [1,287 kilometers] long." He previously has demanded that Mexico pay for the wall, but that has not been emphasized recently by the president in public remarks.

"We need the wall. We've started building the wall, as you know," said Trump, adding that $1.6 billion has now been appropriated by Congress toward "building the wall and fixing the existing wall that's falling down or was never appropriated in the first place."

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