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Iran Press TV

US military to deploy troops to Mexico border to halt illegal crossings, virus spread

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 08 March 2020 3:01 AM

The US military has deployed 160 active-duty soldiers to the southern border regions to entry points at San Ysidro, California and El Paso, Texas in a purported bid to bolster security against a spike in illegal crossings and the spread of corona virus into the country.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on Friday that it would deploy 80 army troops to San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing and 80 more soldiers to El Paso's Paso del Norte bridge as soon as Saturday to assist customs authorities at the Mexico border entry points, local media outlets reported.

US Defense Department also released a statement confirming the move and explaining that the additional troops at the two ports of entry will be used to put up temporary barriers and provide force protection for CBP agents.

According to the Pentagon statement, the 160 service members are from the 687th Engineer Construction Company and the 519th Military Police Battalion, both based at Fort Polk in the southern state of Louisiana.

The latest deployment of military forces to the US-Mexico border regions comes in addition to more than 3,500 active-duty troops already dispatched to the southern border on the order of US President Donald Trump.

The CBP also declared last week that more than 76,000 mostly refugee families had crossed the border illegally during February, marking an 11-year high.

"The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point," said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan on Tuesday after unveiling the new figures.

The development also comes as the Trump administration requests that the Supreme Court uphold the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or "Remain in Mexico" policy, after a federal district court in California ruled against the plan last April, saying it violates international human rights norms and US immigration law.

Local officials, however, have maintained mixed opinions about the policy, insisting that troops are not what the southern border needs at this time.

Democratic Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar underlined in a written statement that Washington is using the corona virus as "an excuse to sow fear about asylum seekers in an effort to continue to violate the law," according to local press reports.

"It is because we are all concerned about the corona virus that we need to focus our resources on our real challenges, like the limited number of tests available, something that troops on the border won't address," Escobar further emphasized.

Dylan Corbett, the founder and director of Hope Border Institute – a bi-national advocacy group in the El Paso-Juárez region – also voiced concerns about the measure.

"There's always a liability and risk when you send military to the border, knowing that you are sending them for a mission that they have not been trained," he stressed.

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