On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-Del) agreed that the troops who have been deployed to the border to deal with the migrant caravan traveling from South America towards the US have been sent there as a political stunt.
The outgoing Senator from Arizona, who has been an outspoken critic of President Trump, pointed out that troops in Arizona have been stationed 90 miles from the border in Tucson and not on the border itself. Flake told Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski, “So they are not forward deployed actually on the border. So I think you can’t call it anything but a stunt here, and it’s unfortunate that they are going to be away from family during the holidays coming up, and we just don’t know what really for.”
Senator Flake stated that he believed that the caravan could be handled by civilians like the border patrol, who are already on the border.
He finished by answering Mika’s initial question of what would you tell a soldier who asked you “why am I here and is my mission a sham?”
Senator Flake said, “I don’t know what I could tell them other than we shouldn’t be doing this. This wasn’t an issue that Congress was involved in. It was an executive decision.”
Senator Coons agreed, stating that active duty military is not needed on the border and that the border patrol is fully capable of handling the migrant caravan that US officials have had months of advance notice of. He added to Sen. Flake’s comments, “I would have to look them in the eye and say thank you for your service and I regret that our president is using you as a political stunt.”
NBC News reports that the 5,600 troops that have been sent to the border will have little to do when they are there. The soldiers are not allowed to assist border agents in apprehending individuals who have crossed the border. Instead, they are stringing barbed wire and building tent cities for themselves and the border patrol.
Troops will wear body armor for self defense but will not have direct contact with illegal aliens. The military police are the only troops who are armed and will be guarding the military encampments.
As The News Blender reported last week, the name of this deployment is now simply “border support”, having been changed from “Operation Faithful Patriot” on the day after the Midterm elections. During the run-up to the Midterms, President Trump touted the troops as a “human wall” and frequently spoke of the migrant caravan as an invasion.
Since the election, Trump’s only recent mention of the asylum-seeking members of the caravan was in issuing a presidential proclamation on November 9.
The deployment is estimated to cost at least $200 million, per NBC News and the number of troops could raise to 15,000 according to the president. According to Fox News, the Pentagon will be paying for this deployment instead of the Department of Homeland Security as it normally has in the past.
A U.S. Customs & Border Protection official, speaking to NBC on condition of anonymity, said border agents are happy that the military is doing the jobs – like rolling out barbed wire – that the agents don’t want to do. Military officials are using this deployment as a readiness exercise, with the training troops receive on the border being applicable on future deployments.
ABC News reports that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, accompanied by Kirstjen Nielson, Homeland Security Secretary, inspected troops deployed to the border today. They visited the military camp in Donna, Texas, near the Rio Grande. President Trump did not accompany them.