540 more troops headed to border to help agents deal with pandemic


Marines look on during work to fortify the border structure that separates Tijuana, Mexico, behind, and San Diego, near the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in San Diego. The military along the California border with Mexico worked Friday to fortify the border structure, including adding concertina wire to the tops of the rusting wall of corrugated metal. The military is expected to have the vast majority of the more than 7,000 troops planned for the mission along the border deployed by Monday, and that number could grow. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

SAN DIEGO (FOX 5) — More troops are headed to the southern border to support federal agents during the coronavirus pandemic, according to several reports.

The Department of Homeland Security requested the additional forces in mid-March, and the request was approved last week, according to a memo obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The coronavirus pandemic has placed the country in a public health crisis and DHS is working with its partners across the government to take action to prevent the further spread of the virus in a ‘whole of America’ approach,” a CBP spokesperson told the U-T.

The additional troops will supplement about 5,000 U.S. service members already stationed along the border. The precise duties of the additional troops wasn’t immediately clear.

In this Aug. 18, 2010, file photo, California National Guard Sgt. Howard Schwenke stands in formation with California National Guard troops, who are part of Task Force Sierra, which is training for future deployment at the border along with Border Patrol Agents, near the California/Mexico border in San Diego. (John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, File)

Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, the commander of U.S. Army North, said that troops would help with “newly granted authorities” for Border Patrol agents to apprehend and immediately return migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Military Times reports.

Border agents expelling undocumented immigrants upon apprehension

But officials say troops currently stationed at the border have not been directly involved in enforcement actions, and the U-T’s source with CBP implied that would remain the case.

“This is not a military operation, nor is this about illegal immigration. The sole intent of this support is to increase (Border Patrol’s) situational awareness and the number of personnel on the line so that (Border Patrol) can better mitigate risks of the coronavirus pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

Officials didn’t immediately say how many of the troops would serve in the San Diego Sector.

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