US general disputes Trump's claim about military threat on southern border
Iran Press TV
Wed Feb 27, 2019 06:57AM
The top US general for homeland security says the influx of illegal immigrants and drugs across the US-Mexico border does not constitute a national emergency, despite claims by President Donald Trump.
"It is not a military threat," US Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the commander of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
O'Shaughnessy, however, added that does not necessarily mean the military should not be involved in the border mission.
The general's remarks come as the US Defense Department plans to send hundreds more American troops to the southern border. The current 5,000 troops will expand to roughly 6,000 by March, the Pentagon confirmed last week.
After Congress rejected Trump's request for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the southern border, the Republican president declared a national emergency to fund the barrier using Pentagon funds.
Under the emergency, Trump would appropriate a total of $8 billion previously approved by Congress for other purposes, notably the Pentagon budget for military construction projects.
Members of Congress are challenging that.
The Democratic-controlled lower chamber of Congress on Tuesday blocked Trump's emergency declaration by a margin of 245-182, however, falling short of overriding the possibility a presidential veto.
Democratic senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee overwhelmed O'Shaughnessy with questions about the need to divert the money from existing projects and questioned the validity of a national emergency declaration.
"I'm concerned, very frankly, that this administration is politicizing our military and militarizing our immigration policy - in effect, using the troops under your command as political props, both in terms of declaring a fake emergency but also compromising our potential security by diverting them away from other assignments and missions that are absolutely necessary," said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.
Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, questioned whether Congress should allow Trump to use Pentagon money for a non-military emergency. "The threat isn't military, and still we'll take $6 billion out of the defense budget to deal with it?"
O'Shaughnessy told the panel on Tuesday that "the actual funding is being worked by the secretary of Defense as we speak."
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