U.S. officials have authorized sending 1,500 active duty soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border for 90 days to aid U.S. Customs and Border Protection efforts to combat international drug trafficking.
About 2,500 National Guard members on active duty orders are already stationed at all nine sectors of the southwest border doing detection and monitoring work with CBP, an official said Monday.
The new increase will bring the total to 4,000 military personnel on the border. The official said the 1,500 soldiers will fill critical “capability gaps,” such as ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry and warehouse support, until CBP can replace them with contractors.
The service members, who were requested by the Department of Homeland Security, will not perform any law enforcement work, the official said.
Biden on Thursday signed an executive order “on authority to order the Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces to active duty to address international drug trafficking.” The order furthers another from December 2021, which declared an emergency to address the national security threats posed by drug trafficking.
The move comes ahead of the expected May 11 end of Title 42 orders, which were implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic and prevented migrants from requesting asylum, allowing border agents to swiftly return many of them back to Mexico. The agency expects a rise in arrivals of migrants attempting to enter the U.S.
San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Kate Morrissey contributed to this report.