While en route to Texas to visit American military members deployed at the U.S.-Mexico border, Secretary of Defense James Mattis defended the deployment. Since the announcement of the use of active-duty troops to support the Department of Homeland Security, it has been criticized as a political stunt.
“Our units are in a position to enable the Border Patrol’s law enforcement operations,” Mattis told reporters on his plane. “We determined that the mission was absolutely legal and this was also reviewed by Department of Justice lawyers.”
“"It's obviously a moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen," he continued.
“There’s nothing new under the sun,” Mattis added, pointing to how American troops were deployed to the border under President Woodrow Wilson to stop Pancho Villa’s border raids.
"It's obviously a moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen," Defense Secretary James Mattis says as he travels to visit U.S. troops deployed to the southern border in anticipation of the arrival of a migrant caravan heading toward the U.S. https://t.co/AfEIFrfeM5 pic.twitter.com/MQlF3O3bJ6— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 14, 2018
“There’s more recent history of DOD support on the border,” he explained. “It spans four administrations in both political parties.”
According to Mattis, the purpose of his visit was, “to see how the troops are doing who have been deployed in support of the Department of Homeland Security and the Custom and Border Patrol agents."
Mattis further stressed the military will not be “directly participating in any law enforcement” and how he does “anticipate military personnel coming into direct contact with migrants.”
Defense Sec. James Mattis on why name of Pentagon mission on southern border changed from "Operation Faithful Patriot" to a border support mission after midterms: "I had given instructions I do not want to put this mission in some arcane military terms" https://t.co/6K48bZHhCY pic.twitter.com/RNIp4uJbQq— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 14, 2018
The military’s main mission is to be in support of the DHS, as many of the personnel belong to public affairs and medical units. They are also providing engineering support to reinforce ports of entry and air transportation for U.S Customs and Border Protection.
U.S. Marines metal workers with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, inspect plasma cutting tips while strengthening the California-Mexico border near the San Ysidro POE. @DeptofDefense is supporting @DHSgov and @CBP along the Southwest Border #CBP #BorderSecurity pic.twitter.com/jMUuHGSF1F— U.S. Army North (@USArmyNorth) November 13, 2018
Soldiers from the 87th Sapper Company of @forthood wait for their signal to assist their fellow engineers as they prep concertina wire near the city of Douglas, Arizona in support of @CBP's mission to secure the southern border. pic.twitter.com/aPK50IZ2An— U.S. Army North (@USArmyNorth) November 14, 2018