Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen visited troops at the United States-Mexico border on Nov. 14, near the Texas town of Donna.
Mattis was briefed by a top military officer on how troops are supporting the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “The purpose is to give CBP personnel tactical mobility,” the officer told Mattis.
Mattis said that he does not expect the troops, of which currently 5,900 are deployed across California, Arizona, and Texas, to have direct contact with migrants.
He said that an additional 1,100 troops could be deployed.
President Donald Trump and Mattis ordered the troops to the border as multiple migrant caravans approached the border.
The first caravan, composed of over 6,000 migrants, has begun to reach the border. A group of 357 migrants who traveled with the caravan at one point reached Tijuana on Tuesday aboard nine buses and another group of several hundred was approaching on Wednesday, reported the Associated Press.
The three caravans approaching the United States contain up to 10,000 migrants.
Mattis Tells Troops to Focus
Addressing the range of reports about the migrant caravans, Mattis told the troops not to worry about them.
“If you read all that stuff, you’ll go nuts,” he said to focus on the mission.
He also noted that troops have been asked to put up obstacles at the border to try to prevent the caravans from breaking through, such as concertina wire.
“Right now the only thing we’ve been asked for is to put in obstacles provide transportation and to provide housing for border,” he said, reported Reuters. “They’ve had to move a number of Border Patrol people, they moved them from other places, So obstacle placement and transportation.”
The first phase of the mission should be accomplished within 10 days, he added. The initial authorization from Mattis stretched through mid-December, and that timeline could be extended.
Nielsen thanked the troops for supporting the Border Patrol agents, reported Mark Knoller of CBS.
“We are honored to partner with you,” she said.