The Trump administration will deploy 5,200 soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the newly launched Operation Faithful Patriot initiative to prepare for thousands of Central American migrants headed north, Pentagon and Homeland Security officials announced Monday afternoon.
Eight hundred of those troops have already been deployed from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, according to U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command Gen. Terrence John O'Shaughnessy.
The Department of Homeland Security last week requested additional military personnel be deployed to the border as a caravan of people coming from Central America heads north.
That caravan has grown to more than 6,000 people after 1,500 abandoned the group and chose to instead apply for asylum in Mexico.
The new wave of personnel will supplement the 2,100 National Guard troops already deployed to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Trump asked for the Guard's help in March when a 1,000-person caravan coming from Central America was reported.
The Defense Department will provide manpower to help with tasks such as engineering temporary barriers, barricades, and fencing; helping move Border Patrol personnel by air; working with medical teams to triage, treat, and prepare patients for transportation on commercial services; command and control facilities; temporary housing for Border Patrol; and personal protective equipment for Border Patrol.
Military planning teams will be deployed to help federal law enforcement create advanced and real-time strategies for how to process illegal entrants and those who might request asylum. The Pentagon also said troops will "fill in gaps" between the 26 crossing points from Mexico, though as military they will not be allowed to enforce the law.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is also freeing up its own assets to send available personnel to the border, thought officials the briefing did not specify where they expect the groups to enter the U.S.
CBP has 1,000 extra officers ready, including 250 from the tactical enforcement and mobile response team, that can assist. CBP component Border Patrol has 830 agents on standby, including 350 from unaffected sectors.
The Pentagon has asked its component, the United States Northern Command, to oversee the operation.
Trump told military officials in a meeting last week he wanted active-duty troops in addition to the guard.
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the government is now tracking two groups of migrants headed to the United States. The first group is located in southern Mexico and is comprised of 3,500 people. The second caravan is in Guatemala near the southern Mexico border and includes about 3,000 people.
McAleenan said "at any given moment," tens of thousands of migrants are en route to the U.S.
The caravans originated in Honduras and Guatemala earlier this month. Both countries have some of the highest crime rates in the world.