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Smith, House Democrats Demand Answers on Trump Border Deployment

Nov 2, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), and 104 other House Democrats sent a letter calling on Secretary Mattis to provide answers about his deployment of 5,200 additional U.S. troops to the border, including how much the deployment will cost, how long the deployment will last, and what the rules of engagement will be. The letter can be found at this link and attached to this release.

The text of the letter is as follows, and a full list of co-signers is below:

Dear Secretary Mattis,

We are writing today to express our opposition to the decision to use additional troops on the southern border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Congress was recently notified that the Administration is sending an additional 5,200 troops to the border without a long-term plan or an analysis of the effectiveness of previous deployments from this year.

The United States can maintain a secure border and the rule of law while still upholding our country’s values to protect those fleeing persecution and violence. The use of military personnel, however, will not help us meet this challenge and only exacerbates the potential to unnecessarily escalate the situation. This effort is nothing short of a militarization of the southern border to score political points and stoke misleading fears among Americans regarding immigrants. In addition, this decision negatively impacts the readiness of our military personnel who could be training to increase their effectiveness in line with their assigned missions and expertise.

This latest announcement follows a series of actions the President has taken this year to use the military to support his failed immigration policies. Earlier this year, National Guard troops were deployed to the southern border at a cost of $103 million, with no evidence to date of the necessity or effectiveness of their deployment. Furthermore, the Department of Defense (DOD) supported requests from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to shelter as many as 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children and 12,000 family members. Lastly, DOD internally approved $7.5 million for advanced planning for a 37-mile border barrier at the Barry M. Goldwater Range that could cost as much as $450 million. Instead of working in a bipartisan manner to make comprehensive, common-sense, and humane reforms to our immigration system, the President continues to turn to politically-motivated fear mongering and uses DOD resources and personnel as means to drive his troubling anti-immigration agenda.

The President has exploited the caravan of people traveling to the U.S. to seek asylum for his own political gain, and he continues to politicize and militarize this humanitarian crisis as these men, women, and children are fleeing violence and persecution in an unstable part of the world. This is another example of the President using fear-mongering tactics over a humanitarian issue. This use of military personnel and resources for functions outside of core mission areas warrants additional Congressional oversight.

Given this disparate approach, we request an update to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the duration of the recent deployment to the southern border for the personnel deployed and to be deployed?
  2. How many personnel will come from each component of the military i.e. active duty, National Guard and Reserve?
  3. What rules of engagement will troops be under with regard to individuals in the caravan or any other individuals approaching or coming across the southern border? 
  4. Have any troops been instructed or trained on how to interact or engage in any way with individuals in the caravan? If so, what is the nature of the expected interaction and what training have these troops received for these interactions?
  5. How much will this deployment cost the American taxpayer?

With all of these pressing concerns in mind, we request a briefing and written response to answer the questions above, and we request an overview of the current strategy. We look forward to your response and thank you for your attention on this matter.

Sincerely,

Reps. Adam Smith, Bennie G. Thompson, Jerrold Nadler, Elijah E. Cummings, Mark Pocan, David Cicilline, James P. McGovern, Carolyn Maloney, Frank Pallone, Jr., Nydia M. Velázquez, Ruben Kihuen, Joe Courtney, Marcy Kaptur, Colleen Hanabusa, Brenda Lawrence, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Adriano Espaillat, Richard E. Neal, Robert Brady, Linda T. Sanchez, Wm. Lacy Clay, Yvette D. Clarke, Donald M. Payne, Jr., William R. Keating, Scott Peters, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ruben Gallego, Rick Larsen, Jim Langevin, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, John Garamendi, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Debbie Dingell, Suzanne Bonamici, Thomas R. Suozzi, Jim Cooper, Chellie Pingree, Suzan K. DelBene, Peter Welch, Salud Carbajal, Jimmy Panetta, Grace F. Napolitano, Diana DeGette, Seth Moulton, Eric Swalwell, Albio Sires, Steve Cohen, Hakeem Jeffries, Donald Norcross, Pramila Jayapal, Mark Takano, Alcee L. Hastings, Mike Doyle, Luis V. Gutiérrez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Darren Soto, Jim Himes, Filemon Vela, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Paul Tonko, Earl Blumenauer, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Marc Veasey, Marcia L. Fudge, Alan Lowenthal, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Frederica S. Wilson, Pete Visclosky, Barbara Lee, David E. Price, Julia Brownley, G.K. Butterfield, Anthony G. Brown, Jose Serrano, Cedric Richmond, Mark DeSaulnier, Gwen Moore, Beto O’Rourke, Daniel T. Kildee, Jamie Raskin, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Dina Titus, John Yarmuth, Richard M. Nolan, Susan Davis, Bobby L. Rush, Ted Lieu, Charlie Crist, Judy Chu, Ro Khanna, John Lewis, Carol Shea-Porter, Raúl M. Grijalva, Denny Heck, Keith Ellison, Kathleen M. Rice, Donald McEachin, Norma Torres, Tulsi Gabbard, Karen Bass, Nita Lowey, John B. Larson, Brad Schneider, Danny K. Davis, and Vicente Gonzalez.

115th Congress