Active duty troops on the southern border with Mexico began carrying out “welfare checks” on detained migrants earlier this month to help out overwhelmed Customs and Border Protection agents, two US defense officials have told CNN.
The news comes as the Pentagon confirmed that it had approved a request Tuesday night from the Department of Homeland Security to authorize and fund an additional 1,000 National Guard troops to be deployed in support of CPB agents on border. Those National Guard forces will be under the command of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.
“Active duty DOD military personnel are assisting Customs and Border Protection agents in CBP facilities by periodically monitoring migrant well-being, and reporting suspicious, violent, or medically related unresponsive behavior,” one of the officials told CNN.
If they observe such activity, US troops are then supposed to notify CBP personnel who would take over the handling of the situation from that point.
The new welfare role for troops marks a departure from their original mission on the border and is raising questions about the nature of the military’s role as the Trump administration faces criticism about the conditions of the facilities migrants are being housed in.
When US troops were first deployed to the border to support CBP agents, Pentagon officials stressed that military personnel would not be in ‘direct contact” with migrants.
National Guard deployment
Of the 1,000 additional National Guard troops being deployed the majority of the additional personnel that are being sent will be involved in assisting CBP as it operates the “adult migrant holding facilities.”
The Department of Homeland Security will provide “mission specific training” for the Texas National Guard personnel, according to a statement by Pentagon spokesman Maj. Chris Mitchell.
Approximately 750 of the National Guard personnel will “provide supplemental holding support to CBP at CBP’s temporary adult migrant holding facilities in Donna, Texas and Tornillo, Texas,” Mitchell said, adding that they “will assist DHS law enforcement personnel with operational, logistical, and administrative support.”
“Migrants will be supervised by DHS law enforcement personnel,” he added.
The remaining 250 Texas National Guard members will provide support at CBP-designated ports of entry and airports in Texas “to enhance border security and improve the flow of commercial traffic.”
The Defense Department also announced that an additional 1,100 active duty military personnel will be deployed to the border in order to help make-up a shortfall in available National Guard personnel.