U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Monday at a press conference at the Defense Department that these "enhanced operations" are in direct response to the two large migrant caravans traveling through Mexico and Central America - including the record 3,500 strong group in southern Mexico and another made up of approximately 3,000 migrants that recently formed and that is now at the Guatemala-Mexico border.
It's a dramatic increase over the 800 to 1,000 troops initially forecast.
The announcement, just days before the midterm elections, came as Mexico also cracked down on migrants attempting to cross its own porous southern border.
Trump, who campaigned against illegal immigration to win the 2016 US presidential vote, has seized on this caravan in the run-up to the congressional elections, firing up support for his Republican Party, which is seeking to maintain control of Congress.
"Please go back", he urged them, "you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process". Among those illegally crossing the U.S. -Mexico border, McAleenan stressed, are criminals and "hardened smugglers".
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While the majority of the caravan rested and reorganized in Tepanatepec, Mexico, a group of a few hundred trekked through the Guatemalan border town of Tecun Uman. "We have barely started, but I think it is going to be very hard".
More than a thousand Honduran migrants broke through a Guatemalan police cordon to reach the river the day before, attempting to join a larger caravan walking toward the USA border.
The "Military is waiting for you!" the president also tweeted.
The massive deployment - about five times more troops than Pentagon officials indicated they initially planned to send last week - would bring to the border a military force roughly equal to the US military deployment in Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State.
Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, head of the USA military's Northern Command, told reporters the 5,200 troops would focus on trying to "harden" border crossings and surrounding areas, with work done by combat engineering battalions with experience building temporary fencing. 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.
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"We are going to hold them, we are going to build tent cities, we are going to build tents all over the place", he said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
On Sunday, one migrant died after he was hit with a rubber bullet when Mexican federal police rebuffed another group of migrants who tried to enter the country over the global bridge. "Mexico should secure its own territory and turn this caravan around".
On Monday he warned that the military would be waiting. "Military personnel are legally prohibited from engaging in immigration enforcement, and there is no emergency or cost-benefit analysis to justify this sudden deployment".
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Friday that the move was consistent with actions taken by past presidents.
The troops are expected to perform a wide variety of functions such as transporting supplies for the Border Patrol, but not engage directly with migrants seeking to cross the border from Mexico, officials said. US officials have told Reuters the support mission would be coordinated by the USA military's Northern Command.
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