U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Pentagon officials are still working out details on the the deployment of several hundred troops to the southern U.S. border, as a caravan of migrants continues slowly making its way north through Mexico and toward the United States.

Mattis spoke to reporters traveling with him to Prague.

On Friday, the Pentagon approved a request by the Department of Homeland Security to send several hundred troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in what is described as a support role. A statement released Friday said personnel will support the border patrol with planning assistance, medical teams and the construction of temporary housing, along with other support duties.

They will join more than 2,000 members of the National Guard already deployed to the area who are providing support for border patrol agents.

FILE - Border Patrol agents and others stand next to a new stretch of border
FILE – Border Patrol agents and others stand next to a new stretch of border wall in Calexico, Calif., Oct. 26, 2018.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is reported to be considering a new executive order aimed at blocking asylum seekers and immigrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

News reports quoting unnamed administration officials say authorities are weighing a range of administrative and legal actions on grounds of national security to restrict the ability of migrants to seek asylum.

Although no decision has reportedly been made yet, immigration attorneys told VOA the move would be quickly challenged in court.

FILE - Aerial view of Honduran migrants taking part in a caravan heading to t
FILE – Aerial view of Honduran migrants taking part in a caravan heading to the U.S., as they rest in the main square of Pijijiapan, Chiapas state, Mexico, Oct. 25, 2018.

The caravan of migrants, making its way north on foot, is still hundreds of kilometers away from the closest U.S. border.

The U.N. refugee agency is urging Washington to allow people fleeing persecution and violence, including those who are traveling with the Central American caravan, to request asylum on U.S. territory.

“Our position globally is that the individuals who are fleeing persecution and violence need to be given access to territory and protection including refugee status and determination procedure," UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic tells VOA. "And, if the people who are fleeing persecution and violence enter Mexico, they need to be provided access to the Mexican asylum system and those entering the United States need to be provided access to the American asylum system.”

Most of those traveling north are from Honduras. There has been no evidence to back up President Donald Trump’s claim last week that "Middle Easterners" are also with the group.

Lisa Schlein and Aline Barros contributed to this report.

Source: VOA news