US troops deployed at the border limited in what they can do

US troops deployed at the border limited in what they can do

US President Donald Trump has ordered through the Pentagon the deployment of no less than 5,200 troops at the US-Mexico border over refugee and migrant influx.

Kevin McAleenan, the top US border security official, said the decision to send troops was not motivated by electoral politics but rather was a law enforcement necessity, as USA agents prepare for the possibility that crowds of migrants will amass and turn unruly.

Trump in recent weeks has repeatedly said more troops are needed to tighten security at the border and he has made political capital of the caravan in the weeks before important mid-term congressional elections that could see the Democrats regain a degree of power.

But critics say Trump is politicizing the military, deploying them as a stunt to drive Republican voters to the polls without any real national security threat.

Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, head of the U.S. military's Northern Command, told reporters the 5,200 troops would focus on trying to "harden" border crossings and surrounding areas, with work done by combat engineering battalions with experience building temporary fencing.

On Monday, he tweeted without providing evidence, "Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border".

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But any migrants who complete the long trek to the southern US border already face major hurdles - both physical and bureaucratic - to being allowed into the United States.

In private, Homeland Security officials acknowledge they were alarmed by scenes of migrants breaking through a gate at Guatemala's border with Mexico last week.

"Right now, we're planning it, how we're going to do it", he added.

Trump says: "We're going to build tent cities".

It means that within days, the U.S. military will have more than three times as many troops along the southern border as it does fighting Islamic State in Syria.

He is expected to hold 11 rallies in the days ahead of the November 6 midterms, which Washington pundits are characterising as a referendum on his presidency.

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The White House is also weighing additional border security measures, including blocking those traveling in the caravan from seeking legal asylum and preventing them from entering the U.S. But the core group of mostly Honduran migrants has rejected his entreaty and continued heading north toward the US border.

The troops are expected to perform a wide variety of functions such as transporting supplies for the Border Patrol, but not engage directly with migrants seeking to cross the border, officials said.

"If you wanna wait, they don't usually get asylum".

The Pentagon last week approved a request for additional troops at the southern border. U.S. Transportation Command posted a video on its Facebook page Monday of a C-17 transport plane that it said was delivering Army equipment to the Southwest border in support of the operation.

"Please go back", he urged them, "you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process".

The projected US deployment is already roughly the same size as the USA military contingent in Iraq.

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