For the first time in 21 years, troops from the US army will be deployed to the border with Mexico.
The Department of Defense announced on Monday the start of the operation “Faithful Patriot” that will include the deployment of 5,200 active soldiers armed to “toughen” the border with Mexico and prevent the entry of undocumented immigrants.
Since 1997, the United States had used only National Guard soldiers in different missions to serve as the eyes and ears of the Border Patrol, with the authorization of the governors of various states, mainly those located along the border with Mexico.
The army and the United States Marine Corps suspended their border operations following two incidents in May 1997, one of which had fatal consequences.
In January 1997, a Navy soldier who worked with Border Patrol agents near Brownsville, Texas, shot an undocumented immigrant in the back.
It was the first time that a serving member of the US armed forces fired on a civilian inside US territory, since the acts of protest against the Vietnam War recorded at the Kent State University in 1970.
The action aroused strong criticism against military surveillance of the border, but the voices of protest could not prevent more blood from spilling.
In May, sailor Clemente Bañuelos, who headed a three-member camouflaged patrol, shot and killed Ezequiel Hernández, a high school student who pastured his family’s goats near the border community of Redford, Texas.
The incidents of 1997 were used by groups of activists in favor of civil rights and immigrants, to form a movement against the militarization of the border.
The deployments that have taken place since then have been only with elements of the National Guard, under the control of state governments, and unarmed.
Last Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis approved the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) request for the deployment of troops to the border in support of immigration authorities.
On Monday, the Department of Defense announced the start of the operation “Faithful Patriot.”
The troops are being sent as a result of the caravan of Central American migrants who are heading to the United States and will offer assistance in planning, as well as engineering, in tasks such as the removal of temporary barriers, barricades, and fences.
Soldiers will support Border Patrol agents with transportation, shelters, barriers, and logistics but will not be in charge of arrests or deportations and will be additional to the 2,092 elements of the National Guard that were deployed earlier this year.
Human rights activists have warned that the friction of undocumented immigrants with soldiers trained to respond to situations only with the use of weapons, could provoke bloodshed.
Under international law and migrant rights bill signed by the U.S., anyone seeking asylum has the right to do so at a countries border, although the Trump administration has threatened migrants and Mexico if the migrants were to make it to the U.S. border to exercise their rights under International and U.S. laws.