Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré told Scripps News that the 1,500 troops being sent to the U.S./Mexico border might not be enough to assist with a surge of migrants expected to cross into the U.S.
Honoré has led the U.S. response to past humanitarian crises, including Joint Task Force Katrina in 2005.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration said the 1,500 service members will be on hand as the pandemic-era Title 42 policy comes to an end May 11. The policy allowed the U.S. to turn asylum-seekers away without having their claims heard as a means of controlling the spread of COVID-19.
“When you're dealing with the suspected numbers, some media reporting up to 10,000 the first few days once the Title 42 is lifted, that’s a lot of logistics, and that to itself, I'm not sure if 1,500 plus the 2,500 you already have will have the capacity to be able to feed, house, process and contain,” Honoré said. “So that number looks low to me.
“But people on the ground have come up with that estimate of what they need. I think you need to be prepared to send more because the last thing we need is people languishing and not having proper food and water once they arrive.”
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As Honoré noted, the military will not be on hand for domestic law enforcement purposes due to the Posse Comitatus Act.
“It's more of a humanitarian and a lifesaving mission to make sure we can properly take care of people,” Honoré said. “Once they cross the border, there's an expectation that they're going to be in a safe environment, they'll have food and water and medicine, and that's going to take a lot of logistics.”
A U.S. official told Scripps News the troops will aid in administrative tasks — including data entry, ground-based detection and monitoring and warehouse support — until U.S. Customs and Border Protection has contracted support for the tasks.
The move would free-up border patrol agents to perform law enforcement duties, but officials said it wouldn’t be necessary if Congress would act. President Joe Biden had put forth comprehensive immigration legislation calling for support from Congress.
The Department of Defense has been providing Customs and Border Patrol with help for over two decades, so the practice is not uncommon.
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