Mattis at the Southern Border
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (General USMC Ret.), has visited troops near McAllen, Texas, and defended the use of the military for border security.
Secretary Mattis said that within a week to 10 days, the troops now deployed along the border in Texas, Arizona and California will have accomplished all the tasks initially requested by Customs and Border Protection, although he said additional requests were expected.
Secretary Mattis, while on his way to visit troops along the border in south Texas Wednesday, declined to provide an estimate of how much the mission will cost.
In his most extensive remarks about the mission, Secretary Mattis argued that it fits an historical pattern dating to early in the 20th Century.
He noted that President Woodrow Wilson deployed tens of thousands of National Guard and active duty troops to the border in Y 1916 in response to a Mexican military raid into the US led by Gen. Francisco “Pancho” Villa.
He noted that more recently, National Guard troops were used in border missions ordered by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, although not on the cusp of a midterm election.
Secretary Mattis did not say how soon the mission might end.
In addition to the 5,800 regular Army troops in the border area, about 2,100 National Guard troops have been providing border support since April.
Asked whether he believes there is a security threat at the border that justifies the use of the active duty military, Secretary Mattis said he defers to the judgment of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who joined him at the border Wednesday.
He said the short-term objective is to get sufficient numbers of wire and other barriers in place along the border as requested by Customs and Border Protection. The longer-term objective, he said, is “somewhat to be determined.”
Secretary Mattis said the mission, which does not include performing law enforcement tasks, was reviewed by Department of Justice lawyers and deemed a legal undertaking. “It’s obviously a moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen.”