Pentagon approves troop deployment extension at Mexico border

Defense Secretary Mattis approves plans to extend deployment of active-duty troops at southern border until January 31.

    A soldier sets up barbed wire at the San Ysidro port of entry, at the US-Mexico border [File: Ramon Espinosa/AP Photo]
    A soldier sets up barbed wire at the San Ysidro port of entry, at the US-Mexico border [File: Ramon Espinosa/AP Photo]

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has approved plans to extend the deployment of active-duty troops at the southern United States border with Mexico until January 31, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. 

    The 45-day extension was requested by the Department of Homeland Security. It involves military forces that will install and repair wire barriers and provide security and transportation for border patrol agents. The troops are spread across California, Arizona and Texas.

    Officials have said the number of troops will drop from about 5,400 now to roughly 4,000. The officials spoke anonymously to describe internal deliberations.

    President Donald Trump ordered the deployment of active-duty troops to the border in response to a caravan of Central American migrants who have been making their way towards the US border since October. Critics call the deployment a vast overreaction and dismissed its initial announcement as a political stunt ahead of the midterm elections.

    Frustration grows

    Meanwhile, on the Mexico side of the border, refugees and migrants are growing frustrated with the long wait times to apply for asylum in the US.  

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    A small group breached the border on Monday, in hopes of having their asylum claims heard faster. The vast majority, however, are choosing to wait for official ports of entry to apply for asylum.  

    The asylum seekers are managing an informal list, giving new arrival numbers, which go into thousands. Each day, migrants and refugees arrive at the crossing and check to see if their number is up. Rights groups expect that asylum seekers will have to wait at least two months before having their cases heard by the US authorities. 

    Rights groups have accused the US government of intentionally stalling the asylum process as part of its "zero-tolerance" policy to deter migrants and refugees from trying to enter the country. The US denies the allegations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies