The New York Times is reporting that the 5,600 American troops stationed in the border states of Texas, Arizona, and California will most likely spend Thanksgiving in tent cities with limited electricity and no combat pay in a mission that Pentagon officials privately call “an expensive waste of time and resources.”
Weeks after Trump riled up racists with jingoist rally rhetoric warning against “invasive” migrant caravans, the troops stationed at the border are housed in tents that sleep 20 soldiers with no air-conditioning and limited electricity.
There is no mess hall, just the brown, prepackaged M.R.E.’s. Military police officers patrol the perimeter at night, armed with handguns. The tents sleep 20 soldiers and have no electricity or air-conditioning. Phone charging is relegated to a few generators that power the spotlights around the living area.
Understandably, morale is an issue for soldiers who are bored, broke, and increasingly depressed at the prospect of spending the holiday on a mission that seems pointless:
The military’s morale issue is almost as worrisome. The deployment orders last until Dec. 15, meaning the troops will be on the border over Thanksgiving. They will have little to do beyond providing logistical support, unless Mr. Trump declares martial law. The troops will not be enforcing United States immigration law — that would run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, unless a special exception is made.
The mission, which was called Operation Faithful Patriot until the Pentagon stepped in and canned the title, has also put Trump further at odds with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Mattis, who Trump publicly accused of “being a Democrat” last month, has been a longstanding proponent of distancing the military from political theater. Recently, Mattis was responsible for rejecting White House requests that troops be armed and ready for confrontation with the migrants.
When Defense Department officials replied the same day, on Mr. Mattis’s orders, they rejected those requests and referred the Department of Homeland Security to the White House, the officials said. The Defense Department viewed the requests as inappropriate and legally treacherous, potentially setting up soldiers for violent encounters with migrants.
Active-duty troops haven’t been sent to the border since the 1980s, when they were deployed to assist in counternarcotics missions.
Meanwhile in New Mexico, AP News reports that governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham may deploy National Guard troops to the border in an effort to focus on offering humanitarian aid to the caravan, citing concerns for the women and children who have traveled thousands of miles seeking asylum. Grisham also expressed concerns that the White House’s information about the migrants may be less than credible:
“I have not been confident about the president’s or Homeland Security’s information, I haven’t found it credible — in many details, in many ways,” Lujan Grisham said. “If I can’t get information in January that shifts my thinking, particularly with assignment of troops on the border, I would likely reconsider the National Guard being on the border.”