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The Pentagon announced Monday it will deploy 5,200 additional troops to the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of the week to stop thousands of migrants and refugees in a caravan from entering the country.
Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the commander with the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, announced the decision at a news conference and said the deployment, called "Operation Faithful Patriot," is to "harden the points of entry."
"We know border security is national security," he said. "The president has made it clear that border security is national security."
The troops will be a mix of active duty, reserve and National Guard forces and will support thousands of border patrol agents already deployed to the area. There also are already more than 2,000 troops at the border.
O'Shaughnessy said troops that are normally assigned weapons will have them at the border.
President Donald Trump has made immigration and border security a major issue in the upcoming midterm election on Nov. 6 and repeatedly railed against the caravan. He called it "an invasion of our country" in a Monday tweet.
Kevin McAleenan, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said in response to a reporter's question that the move has nothing to do with politics.
"No, this is a law enforcement operation from CBP's perspective and we partner with (the Defense Department) all the time to help secure our borders," he said. "That is the direction we were given and that's the direction we are marching to."
McAleenan said there is an “ongoing conversation” on how to best handle people who have claims of asylum, but did not provide any specifics about how they would be treated.
He added that asylum seekers within the group were offered protection by Mexican officials and should apply there before arriving at the U.S. border.
McAleenan added that the caravan of several thousand is mostly made up of families and unaccompanied minors.
"We are already facing a border security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border," McAleenan said. "Our message to the organizers and participants of this caravan is simple...we will not allow a large group to enter the United States in an unsafe and unlawful manner."
McAleenan also said CBP agents who are on the U.S-Canada border could be deployed to the southern border if needed. "We are considering all potential options," he said.