The U.S. Defense Department said Friday that it expected to send about 300 additional troops to the U.S. border with Mexico in roles that could allow them to come into contact with migrants, breaking past policy against interaction with them.
The Pentagon said the additional troops would include about 100 military cooks who would hand out meals to migrants, as well as troops performing other support roles, including driving buses with detained migrants.
“We will have some of our troops handing out meals. Therefore, [they] would come in contact with migrants,” Pentagon spokesman Charlie Summers said.
He said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had not yet signed the request for additional troops from the Department of Homeland Security, but that he was expected to do so. Summers said the proposal included an amendment to the current policy on avoiding contact with migrants.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said he would seek to move more military members to the border with Mexico.
Trump sent U.S. troops to the border last year to assist border personnel in responding to several caravans of Central American migrants seeking to reach the United States.
There are about 5,000 active-duty and National Guard troops near the U.S.-Mexico border assisting Border Patrol agents who are trying to deal with a surge of migrants seeking asylum.
By law, the military is not allowed to be involved in civilian law enforcement on U.S. soil unless approved by Congress. However, the military can provide support services to law enforcement, including Border Patrol agents.
Trump has made reducing illegal immigration a priority in his administration, including declaring a national emergency earlier this year to allow military funding to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.