The Biden administration will send 1,500 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border next week, as a COVID-19 restriction that limited immigration expires.
The military personnel are being sent to the border as Title 42 restrictions – a pandemic-era regulation that allowed U.S. authorities to quickly expel non-Mexican migrants to Mexico without the chance to seek asylum – will be lifted on May 11, according to The Associated Press.
The troops will be doing data entry and other administrative duties, to “free up Border Patrol agents to perform their critical law enforcement duties,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The active-duty troops will not carry out law enforcement duties, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement.
Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, active-duty military troops may not be used for regular civil law enforcement, though the act does allow for legislated exceptions.
According to Ryder, the troops will be deployed for 90 days. They will join some 2,500 National Guard members already at the southern border.
The troops are being sent as immigration officials expect a surge of migrants to cross the southern border.
Since November, US Customs and Border Control agents have had 1,223,067 migrant encounters along the southern border.
While President Joe Biden has been criticized by Republicans for relaxing border restrictions, he has faced some pushback from his own party.
“The Biden administration’s militarization of the border is unacceptable,” said Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chair Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey. “There is already a humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere, and deploying military personnel only signals that migrants are a threat that requires our nation’s troops to contain. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
In advance of the repeal of Title 42, House Republicans introduced in late April an immigration package that includes harsh restrictions on migration through the southern border.
The bill would tighten asylum eligibility, expand migrant family detention and crack down on the employment of undocumented workers, according to Roll Call.