Pentagon ramps up military activity across border before midterms

Migrants wait in lines to receive donated food as others look on in Tapanatepec Mexico

The troops, which are expected to initially be stationed at ports of entry, will be deployed to provide additional security as the so-called "caravan of migrants" pushes toward the US-Mexico border.

In private, Homeland Security officials acknowledge they were alarmed by scenes of migrants breaking through a gate at Guatemala's border with Mexico last week.

According to US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, US authorities were tracking a group of about 3,500 people travelling north through the Chiapas-Oaxaca area in southern Mexico.

The announcement comes as a caravan of migrants is making its way from Central America to the Southwest border of the United States. Others soaked themselves in the nearby Novillero river.Tensions from a long trek through searing heat with tenuous supplies of food and other goods spilled over Saturday night when a dispute in a food line devolved into a beating.

The number of people in the first migrant caravan headed toward the USA has dwindled to about 4,000 from about 7,000 last week, though a second one was gaining steam and marked by violence.

The massive deployment marks a sharp increase from initial estimates last week, when United States officials said about 800 active-duty troops would head south.

The Pentagon is deploying 5,200 active-duty troops to strengthen security along the US-Mexico border in a bid to prevent a caravan of Central American migrants from illegally crossing the frontier. The National Guard is often used by states to help with border security.

"If you wanna wait, they don't usually get asylum".

But any migrants who complete the long trek to the southern USA border already face major hurdles - both physical and bureaucratic - to being allowed into the United States. More than 1,500 of the original group have applied for asylum in Mexico.

Trump said the United States would build "tent cities" to house migrants seeking asylum, rather than releasing them while they await court decisions.

"We're going to secure the border", Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, the Northern Command leader, said at a news conference.

"Right now, we're planning it, how we're going to do it", he added.

Trump says that the US was "going to be prepared" and that the migrants are "not coming into our country". But there already is a bottleneck of would-be asylum seekers waiting at some US border crossings to make their claims, some waiting as long as five weeks.

The deployments thrust the military further into a political fight in which the president increasingly has sought to cast the migrants as a national security threat in the days leading up to the November 6 midterm elections.

On Monday, he tweeted without providing evidence, "Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border". The military troops are meant to assist the border patrol, not engage directly with migrants, several officials said. It remains hundreds of miles from USA soil.

The projected US deployment is already roughly the same size as the USA military contingent in Iraq.

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