The Pentagon has approved additional military support for Homeland Security authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border, the department said late Monday.
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan approved the support and ordered 116 miles of new concertina wire. About 10 miles of the wire had been installed by December at locations in Arizona, Texas and California.
“The Department of Defense is transitioning its support at the southwestern border from hardening ports of entry to mobile surveillance and detection, as well as concertina wire emplacement between ports of entry,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Originally, the U.S. mission at the border, called Operation Faithful Patriot, started in October and was supposed to end Dec. 15. The deployment was extended again until January, though troop levels decreased by half in recent weeks. The Pentagon’s decision Monday extends it through the end of September.
The new request for concertina wire could mean additional troops with engineering expertise will be needed again. At one point, there were nearly 6,000 U.S. troops at the border.
The placement of the circular barbed wire is separate from President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall. His efforts to secure $5.7 billion for the wall have caused a stalemate with Congress that’s closed part of the federal government sine Dec. 22. It’s now the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
The extension of support at the border coincides with news that another large migrant caravan is forming in Honduras and plans to travel to Mexico’s southern border this week.
Many families fleeing Central America are seeking asylum due to an abundance of violence in their home countries. Prior caravans made the trip in December.
U.S. troops are prevented from engaging in law enforcement activities at the border, meaning most of their time is spent securing crossings and other barriers. They also accompany U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents and conduct training exercises.
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