U.S. Border Patrol agents  near border wall construction in Calexico, California. (Photographer: Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg)

Pentagon Says Border Troops Only Authorized Through Mid-December

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. troops hastily deployed to the southern border with Mexico just ahead of the midterm elections are only authorized to remain in place for another month, and the Pentagon said it has no information on whether that deadline will be extended.

The troop deployment “at the southwest border has been authorized through Dec. 15,” Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said Monday via email. “While we have made significant progress in closing gaps and hardening points of entry, I don’t have any redeployment details at this time.”

President Donald Trump called for troops to be deployed to the border in October to address a “national emergency” as caravans of migrants from Central America made their way north toward the U.S. Even as they remained hundreds of miles from the U.S. border, Trump ramped up his focus on the migrants in the days before the midterm elections, a move that many political analysts said was meant to boost turnout by his supporters.

Trump sharply reduced his tweeting about the caravans after the election. Meanwhile, criticism of the deployment of about 5,700 troops accelerated after the Pentagon appeared to scale back the emphasis on the mission, revoking the designation “Operation Faithful Patriot” for the generic term “border support” the day after the election.

Asylum Law

The deployment was part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to address border security. The president this month also moved to restrict asylum claims by people who illegally cross the border from Mexico. Under a new administration rule, which will likely face court challenges, migrants seeking asylum will have to make their claims at official ports of entry. There, “they would be processed in a controlled, orderly, and lawful manner,” according to the rule.

But according to U.S. law, any migrant who enters the country “whether or not at a designated port of arrival” can apply for asylum. The administration believes it can modify that with its new rule. Many migrants who cross the border with Mexico illegally -- especially children and families -- present themselves to Customs and Border Patrol officers as soon as they can and claim asylum.

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