US Defense Secretary James Mattis has authorized the use of troops and other military resources at the US-Mexico border, after President Donald Trump ordered the US military to prevent a caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America from entering the US.
US officials said on Friday that Mattis’ authorization was not itself a “deployment order” and did not include a specific number of troops, something that would be determined at a later point.
The US Defense Department did not comment on potential troop numbers, which US officials say could be at least 800 active-duty soldiers and begin deploying as soon as Tuesday.
The Pentagon said Mattis had authorized the military to provide “mission-enhancing capabilities” to US Customs and Border Protection, including engineering support to help build temporary barriers and housing.
One US military official told Reuters that some of the troops would assist with traffic and crowd control on the US side of the border, potentially helping to manage protesters.
Pentagon officials emphasized that US troops would not be engaged in any law enforcement activities, something that is prohibited under US law, and instead would focus on support roles in areas like infrastructure and logistics.
US President Donald Trump says he is sending an increased number of troops to the Mexican border to stop a caravan of immigrants from entering the country.
Thousands of migrants from Central America are crossing Mexico toward the United States. Trump threatened he would deploy the military and close the US-Mexico border.
Fleeing violent crime, poverty and political unrest at home, the migrants say they are determined to reach the United States, despite Trump’s vows to stop them, and his threats to cut aid to Central American countries.
The caravan, which began as a march of a few hundred people from the crime-wracked Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on October 13, swelled into the thousands as it was joined by migrants from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
The vast majority of migrants are from Honduras.
Trump has made his hard-line stance on immigration an integral part of his presidency and has promised to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to curb the flow of migrants from Mexico and Central America.