Donald Trump has sent 5,200 American soldiers to the US-Mexico border in a major escalation of the White House's response to the migrant "caravan" approaching through Mexico. The new troops will include military police, combat engineers and helicopter companies equipped with advanced technology to help detect people at night.
Last week, in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Vice President Mike Pence would not rule out the option of closing down the border ahead of the midterm elections.
"If you wanna wait, they don't usually get asylum".
That caravan is estimated to contain 4,000 people - but the number is slowly shrinking as tired travelers drop out or apply for protected status in Mexico, spurring the caravan's leaders to make the request for help with transportation to Mexico's capital, according to the Associated Press.
"We should not be militarizing the border, and President Trump has offered no clear idea of what our forces are going to do there", Smith said Thursday. "I see it as nothing more than pandering to the midterm elections by the president".
A caravan of mostly Hondurans, estimated to number between 3,500 and 7,000, who left their country in mid-October are now in southern Mexico.
"What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups that present unique safety and border security threats", McAleenan said. The caravan, which has not been stopped by Mexican authorities since it crossed the river October 20, has inspired thousands of other Central American immigrants fleeing poverty and violence to set out together in recent days in large groups heading north.
And despite the heightened rhetoric, the number of immigrants apprehended at the border is dramatically lower than past years.
Military personnel are legally prohibited from engaging in immigration enforcement.
President Donald Trump is escalating his threats against a migrant caravan traveling to the US border, labelling the effort an "invasion" and declaring the "Military is waiting for you".
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Federal law stipulates that active duty forces can not act in a law enforcement capacity, and, therefore, will be limited to acting in support of CBP.
"CBP personnel are absolutely the primary and principle members that will be handling specifically the migrants", he said.
Gen O'Shaughnessy said 800 troops are already on their way to southern Texas and their numbers will top 5,200 by the end of the week. The Pentagon says an additional 5,200 active-duty troops could join them.
The projected US deployment is already roughly the same size as the USA military contingent in Iraq.
There are already 2,100 National Guard members at the border, sent after a previous request by Mr Trump in April.
The move represents a massive military build-up along the border, where some 2,000 National Guardsmen are already working to provide help to overwhelmed authorities.
Mexico, meanwhile, has also been tightening security on its southern border, where migrants often use rafts to cross the Suchiate river. That operation resulted in several arrests and the seizure of 465 pounds of marijuana. The deployments to Arizona and California will follow.
"The Mexican government rejects the violence that occurred today on the border with Guatemala, and reiterates that the only way to enter Mexico is in compliance with immigration laws", Mexican interior minister Alfonso Navarrete said during a press conference on Sunday.
A US official told ABC News that 2,000 active duty troops have already been placed on "prepared to deploy" orders in anticipation of those requests.