The US government is sending 160 troops to help border guards block the migrant influx expected in the event of the Court of Appeals reversing the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols – a document that has sent around 60,000 newcomers back to Mexico to wait for their US asylum hearings there.
Quite a few from the migrant crowds waiting in Mexico dashed to the border on 28 February, when the court declared the MPP programme unlawful, but then, the decision was put on hold until 12 March, pending Supreme Court involvement. The court ruled to allow the MPP programme to continue in Texas, while for the rest of the country, Department of Justice officials asked the Supreme Court to extend the delay of the appeal.
The additional troops are viewed as not only a necessary reinforcement of border controls ahead of the projected surge in migrants reaching the border on 12 March, but also a measure that could prevent the migration of people with diseases akin to the Chinese-originated coronavirus.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency’s “mission is to secure our nation’s borders, and measures such as the Crisis Response Force employment allow CBP to do just that", a senior agency official told reporters on 6 March.
He went on to explicitly outline the administration’s concerns – “large groups attempting to forcibly enter through [Ports of Entry] PoEs, and Covid-19 containment and mitigation concerns” – the reason why the CBP has activated the Crisis Response Force.
“Approximately 80 personnel will be deployed to PoE in El Paso, Texas, and approximately 80 personnel will be supporting the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California", he went on, adding that if needed, they “have the ability to lift-and-shift via air or ground from one PoE to another PoE to support CBP".
The Pentagon has made the Crisis Response Force plan available to CBP since Trump initially deployed soldiers to the border in November 2018 in anticipation of the arrival of a large caravan.
The MPP programme has of late greatly facilitated the blocking of torrents of Central Americans through the so-dubbed “Flores” legal loophole in the border wall. The latter entails that if migrants bring a child, it forces officials to release them unconstrained into the US jobs market after merely 20 days. In February, officials released just 2,000 migrants out of 36,000 arrivals. In May of last year, border control let 80,000 migrants cross into the US, while 140,000 arrived at the border - well over a half of the total.
In June 2019, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States and Mexico had reached a deal under which Washington would give up earlier plans to slap tariffs on Mexican goods in a bid to stop the migrant influx. The deal stipulates that Mexico deploy its National Guard to its southern border and work to bust human smuggling networks.
Trump has a number of times called the surge of arrivals a crisis and declared a national emergency in February to secure funds to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Trump believes that the wall, which was his key 2016 campaign pledge, will prevent the overwhelming influx of undocumented migrants and drug traffickers into the country.