As the Biden administration scrambles to prepare for an expected surge in illegal immigration after the Title 42 health authority is lifted next month, the Pentagon has promised to provide “some” support — but will not go so far as to put forces on the southwestern border.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security requested help as border officials brace for record-high numbers of encounters.
Gen. Glen Vanherck, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the Senate Armed Service Committee that the department was planning to “provide additional capability or capacity based on the potential for additional immigration, or folks coming to the southwest border.”
The Department of Defense confirmed the request to The Post on Wednesday, revealing that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has “authorized some DoD support.”
However, the support will be limited and will not include “additional personnel sent for the monitoring mission” or guarding the border.
“On Saturday, Secretary Austin approved DoD support to DHS regarding the anticipated surge in irregular migration along the southwest border to help DHS execute its mission of providing appropriate humanitarian care to migrants in its custody,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
That support will include contracting 40 commercial buses to transport migrants from border ports of entry to other locations for processing, as well as having medical personnel on standby, Kirby said.
“The Secretary also approved in principle providing land sites on DoD military installations for processing of migrants, and providing lodging for Federal employees supporting the mission, should it be needed,” he continued.
In a separate statement, the Pentagon appeared open to sending troops to the area.
“The Department has been supporting this DHS-led mission since 2006, spanning the Bush, Obama, Trump, and now the Biden administrations along the way. If DHS were to send a request for continued assistance along the border, DoD would consider it,” Defense Department spokesman LTC Chris Mitchell told The Post.
It is unclear when the support will go into effect. Currently, it has been approved for 90 days and “will be provided on a reimbursement basis.”
Republicans representing border states lashed out at the DoD over its statement Wednesday.
“While the drumbeat for war in far-off lands seldom ceases among the political class at the Pentagon, these Washington insiders never want to defend our own borders from illegal immigration, illegal drugs, or dangerous criminals,” Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) told The Post.
“Pentagon politicos who whined when asked to build a border wall are now facilitating the final mile of trafficking illegal immigrants. When will the Biden administration defend America?” added Harrell. “This does a disservice to the great men and women of our Armed Forces who honorably serve their country every day. Refusing to monitor or protect our border goes against the entire point of having a military.”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who has repeatedly criticized the administration for planning to lift Title 42, accused the Pentagon of “acting as a welcome wagon” for migrants seeking to cross the border in the coming months.
“With their decision to offer zero support to assist Border Patrol officials prevent a massive surge of illegal aliens, the Pentagon is acting as a welcome wagon by aiding and abetting the tens of thousands of lawbreakers waiting to rush the border as soon as Biden’s reckless decision to lift Title 42 is enacted, worsening the full-scale invasion of our country that is occurring because of the Biden administration’s open border policies,” Gosar told The Post.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Title 42 would be lifted on May 23. The order was first imposed in March 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, and has allowed border officials to immediately expel nearly 2 million migrants who have attempted to enter the US without hearing asylum claims.
Several members of both parties — including Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona — have slammed the administration for lifting Title 42, citing both the ongoing pandemic and an expected migrant influx of up to 170,000 people.