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U.S. spending $72 million for troops to do nothing at the border

Thousands of troops will miss Thanksgiving thanks to Donald Trump's xenophobic theatrics.

Military personnel are attaching barbed wire to a border crossing in advance of a caravan of migrants who plan to seek asylum in the U.S., as is their legal right. CREDIT: Omar Martínez/picture alliance via Getty Images
Military personnel are attaching barbed wire to a border crossing in advance of a caravan of migrants who plan to seek asylum in the U.S., as is their legal right. CREDIT: Omar Martínez/picture alliance via Getty Images

For reasons still unclear, President Trump has stationed nearly 6,000 troops at the southern border. This political stunt, the Pentagon now reports, will cost U.S. taxpayers $72 million. Combined with the $138 million spent on the 2,100 National Guard troops that have been deployed there since April, that brings the total cost of securing the border this year to $210 million.

In the lead-up to the election, Trump insisted that the caravan of migrants traveling to the United States from Central America constituted some sort of “invasion.” Though the group of refugees fleeing violence and persecution bear all the attributes of a humanitarian crisis, Trump repeatedly insisted without evidence that the caravan was full of violent criminals and even terrorists. To double down on his bluff, Trump deployed 5,000 active duty military personnel to the border weeks before the midterm elections, though that figure ended up topping out at about 5,900 troops.The exact purpose of their deployment remains a mystery, one to which Democrats in Congress are demanding answers.

This “misuse of active duty personnel” was widely panned as a political stunt designed to gin up fears to try to influence and energize Republican voters who are typically susceptible to this kind of fear mongering. About half the troops are in Southern Texas, far from the Tijuana border into California where the caravan is set to arrive. Furthermore, the law prevents active duty personnel from arresting, detaining, deporting, or otherwise policing any of the migrants on US soil, so they’re only providing auxiliary support to the border agents who can.

A new report from the Military Times on Wednesday stated that the White House has nevertheless authorized military personnel to use force — lethal, if necessary — against members of the caravan, in clear violation of federal law. Trump first floated the possibility of responding to migrants armed with small rocks with deadly force, before walking back that claim and denying he ever said it in the first place.

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As soon as the election was over, coverage of the caravan — particularly on Fox News and Fox Business — nearly vanished. Two weeks later, the caravan is still lingering in southern Mexico, and has even shrunk in size as some of its members have sought asylum in Mexico rather than continue to the U.S. border.

Though the majority of the caravan was not set to arrive until December, the military operation is set to end December 15. Some troops are already coming home, with everyone expected to be home by Christmas.

In the meantime, however, taxpayers are footing a massive bill for a bit of xenophobic security theatre which serves no purpose but to keep a couple thousand military personnel away from their families on Thanksgiving.