The Biden Administration is dispatching 1,500 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a statement Tuesday from the Department of Defense.
“For 90 days, these 1,500 military personnel will fill critical capability gaps, such as ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry, and warehouse support, until [Customs and Border Protection] can address these needs through contracted support,” DoD said in a statement attributed to Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder.
“Military personnel will not directly participate in law enforcement activities,” Ryder said.
The significant movement of troops to the southern border comes as pandemic-era restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on May 11.
The pandemic-era restrictions, known as Title 42, had previously allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to turn away attempted border crossers for reasons related to public health.
The end of those restrictions is expected to trigger yet another surge in unauthorized border crossings.
The 1,500 new troops will join the approximately 2,700 National Guard members already stationed at the border.
In December, CBP agents encountered a record 252,012 migrants attempting to cross the border illegally. In March, CBP agents had more than 190,000 encounters. Those numbers only capture the number of migrants who have been caught or turn themselves over to immigration officials.
Thousands of migrants who crossed the southern border have wound up in Maine over the past three years.
Despite its physical distance from the border, Maine is among the states most impacted by the surge of migrants crossing the southern border because of its role as a sanctuary city for asylum seekers, asylees, and illegal aliens.
Since 2019, Maine has provided housing benefits, general assistance welfare benefits, health care, and education to migrants who have entered the state, often after having crossed the southern border.
Maine’s generous taxpayer-funded accommodations serve as a magnet for desperate migrants who may have a more difficult time settling in states with tighter welfare restrictions.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in March called on DHS to stop exacerbating Maine’s migrant crisis. She said migrants are crossing the southern border and telling federal agents that their ultimate destination is a welfare office in Maine.
“State and local officials have reported to me that many asylum seekers in Portland identified municipal government addresses—including social services offices or emergency shelters—as their ultimate destination when they first arrived at the southern border,” Collins said in a statement.
“Those individuals were allowed entry into the country, and in many cases were provided with transportation to Maine, without any confirmation by DHS as to whether the locations identified can accommodate these individuals,” said Collins.
“As a result, the City of Portland—a city with a population of fewer than 70,000—is currently sheltering approximately 1,100 people per night and is under constant pressure to expand emergency shelters and other services, with the only alternative being to turn away vulnerable individuals, families, and children,” she said.
“Perhaps most troubling, the surge of asylum seekers in Maine now means that housing facilities are beyond capacity and Mainers in need of shelter have nowhere to go,” she said.
She called on DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to respond to a inquiry from her office, though it’s unclear whether he has responded.
Dept. of Homeland Security officials have also said in recent weeks that illegal crossings of the northern border have increased. Although those increased crossings are mostly occurring in the New York and Vermont sectors, Maine has seen an uptick in crossings.
In March, CBP agents in Maine’s Houlton Sector had 32 encounters with illegal border crossers, more than double the number in March 2022. Year-to-date, there have been 139 encounters, almost all of them single adults.
In January, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) joined a bipartisan group of senators from the northern U.S. to call for more resources for the northern border.
Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), whose district includes several thousand miles of international border, last week joined Republican lawmakers from other rural districts to support a bill he said would help DHS hire border protection agents.
Golden also introduced a bill that would have blocked the Biden White House from lifting Title 42, but that proposal never became law.
“The Biden Administration is not currently prepared for a large increase in border crossings,” Golden said in April 2022.
“Ending these Title 42 authorities without a plan in place to manage the resulting influx of migrants is irresponsible and could create crisis conditions that would be dangerous for both migrants coming to America and Americans themselves,” said Golden.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) visited the southern border in 2018 as Democratic politicians were leveling harsh criticism against the border policies of then-President Donald Trump; however, she hasn’t been back to the border or criticized the Biden Administration’s handling of the crisis.