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Active Duty Troops Could Be Heading Back To The U.S.-Mexico Border

Camp Donna BEFORE 2.JPG
Carson Frame / Texas Public Radio
Donna, Texas was the site of a military encampment for troops supporting the Border Patrol in late 2018.

Thousands of National Guard troops who have rotated to the southern border since 2018 are supposed to head home by the end of September. But the Department of Homeland Security wants the border mission to continue.

President Joe Biden announced in February that he would rescind the Trump administration's national emergency declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border, which took effect in 2019. It had allowed National Guard and reserve troops to support counterdrug operations and provide engineering, logistics and other aid to Customs and Border Protection.

But on May 12, DHS asked the Defense Department to extend its support of Customs and Border Protection until next year.

“The Department is currently considering that request,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement.

Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told lawmakers March 18 that all possibilities were on the table with respect to staffing the southern border.

“With the rescinding of the declaration of national emergency, a Title 10 option— we're looking at for the Guardsmen to potentially fill that,” he said. “But it may be the active component. They [Defense officials] are looking at all options right now.”

Hokanson added that the Pentagon is moving quickly to avoid a gap in coverage.

“We know the current units are scheduled to come home on Sept. 30, and we are working as quickly as possible to notify those [future] forces.”

U.S. Army soldiers install a barbed wire fence along Anzalduas International Bridge near the U.S.- Mexico border in McAllen
U.S. Army soldiers install a barbed wire fence along Anzalduas International Bridge near the U.S.- Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Delcia Lopez

It wouldn’t be the first time that active-duty troops have taken part in border deployments. In Sept. 2019, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border. More than half of those who deployed were active-duty forces assigned to support border enforcement activities.

According to Military Times, about 3,500 National Guardsmen are stationed at the border currently.

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Carson Frame can be reached carson@tpr.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame