Trump Could Keep Troops on Mexican Border Well into 2019

President Donald Trump sent thousands of military troops to the U.S.-Mexico border last month in anticipation of a large Central American migrant caravan snaking its way to the United States.

The primary mission of the troops, it seemed, was to install razor wire fences and keep a military presence at strategic checkpoints. And although accomplished, the Trump administration insinuated it could keep those troops through the holidays and into mid-January to solidify further assisance of border patrol.

The Pentagon this week announced it could keep troops on the border for an additional 45 days beyond the initial Dec. 15 deadline, which means the military members would skip any potential Christmas and New Years holiday leave they’d already planned.

The Los Angeles Times reports the Pentagon could keep nearly 6,000 troops already deployed along the southwest border from Texas to California until 2019, depending on what the Department of Homeland Security requests.

“We'll react to the Department of Homeland Security if they ask for it,” Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said, adding that extensions for troop deployment may be required. “Right now we're working with them on the staffs.”

Mattis told reporters on Wednesday the primary mission of the troops—installing wire fences and reinforcing a military presence at legal ports of entry into the country—had already been accomplished. But the defense secretary said logistics of keeping that presence is what’s keeping troops stationed along the border.

“The ports of entry are pretty much, I think, done,” Mattis said. “There's a little on the flanks of a couple of them we're still working on. So we'll have to see if the request extends further.”

Though some say Trump hastily sent the troops to the border in front of this month’s midterm elections, border security was one of the main pillars of the commander-in-chief’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The border seemed relatively docile through the elections, but tensions escalated last weekend as the first giant caravan reached Tijuana, right on the Southern California border. Some of the migrants allegedly seeking asylum rushed the border and threw rocks and bottles at border control, triggering the agents to fire tear gas into the migrants’ direction, which stirred ire all across the world.

“As far as the use of force, the Border Patrol is using what they believe is appropriate. We would be backing them up,” Mattis said. “I can't even forecast what would be necessary after seeing the Border Patrol's response under the pressure that we saw this last weekend.”

The border crisis has been an issue in American politics. But now as the Democrats get ready to take over the House, the border situation becomes more front and center—along with all other Democrat potential explorations into the Trump administration and the 2016 election.

Mattis said if an extension is approved, then those troops who have been stationed along the border could be relieved by other troops, and that their locations could be moved as well.

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