SAN DIEGO — More troops are headed to the southern border to support federal agents during the coronavirus pandemic, according to several reports.
The Department of Homeland Security requested the additional forces in mid-March, and the request was approved last week, according to a memo obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“The coronavirus pandemic has placed the country in a public health crisis and DHS is working with its partners across the government to take action to prevent the further spread of the virus in a ‘whole of America’ approach,” a CBP spokesperson told the U-T.
The additional troops will supplement about 5,000 U.S. service members already stationed along the border. The precise duties of the additional troops wasn’t immediately clear.
Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, the commander of U.S. Army North, said that troops would help with “newly granted authorities” for Border Patrol agents to apprehend and immediately return migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Military Times reports.
But officials say troops currently stationed at the border have not been directly involved in enforcement actions, and the U-T’s source with CBP implied that would remain the case.
“This is not a military operation, nor is this about illegal immigration. The sole intent of this support is to increase (Border Patrol’s) situational awareness and the number of personnel on the line so that (Border Patrol) can better mitigate risks of the coronavirus pandemic,” the spokesperson said.
Officials didn’t immediately say how many of the troops would serve in the San Diego sector.