Washington — The Department of Defense is deploying 1,500 active-duty troops to the southern border to provide operational support to U.S. immigration authorities as they grapple with a sharp increase in migrant crossings ahead of the termination of pandemic-era migration restrictions, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The service members will be deployed for 90 days, one official said, and will not be tasked with any law enforcement duties like detaining or processing migrants. Instead, the military units will play a supporting role, assisting with transportation, administrative duties, narcotics detection, data entry and warehouse support.
Late last month, President Biden gave the Pentagon emergency authorization to assist Homeland Security officials in efforts to combat international drug trafficking.
The deployment comes at the request of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), officials said. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fox News first reported that planning for the deployment was underway.
The move to send military units to the southern border is designed to ease some of the pressure on Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, who are preparing for a sharp increase in crossings once they can no longer expel migrants under Title 42, the public health restriction first enacted in March 2020. The policy is set to end on May 11, once the national COVID-19 public health emergency expires.
Troy Miller, the top official at CBP, recently told Congress that his agency is preparing for as many as 10,000 migrants to cross the southern border every day after the end of Title 42, which would almost double the daily average in March. Daily migrant arrivals have already increased to more than 7,000 in recent days.
The military has been asked to support U.S. border officials multiple times, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Former President Donald Trump’s administration authorized dozens of high-profile and often controversial deployments as part of a broader crack down on illegal border crossings.
One U.S. official said that roughly 2,500 National Guard troops are already at the border to support CBP, and their mission will be unchanged.
Nancy Cordes, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson contributed reporting.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez is the immigration reporter at CBS News. Based in Washington, he covers immigration policy and politics.