United States Marines fortify concertina wire along the San Ysidro Port of Entry border crossing as seen from Tijuana, Mexico November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s administration is considering giving U.S. troops on the border with Mexico the authority to carry out medical screening of migrants, U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
The proposal, which is still in draft form and is circulating within the administration, would involve the military in screenings for things like illness and injury only if U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency personnel were overwhelmed and unable to do so on their own, the officials said.
The proposal would expand the mission for the Pentagon, which said previously it did not expect its forces to directly interact with migrants.
The Pentagon declined to comment.
U.S. military duties on the border, including stringing up concertina wire and building temporary housing, have been aimed at supporting CBP personnel.
The U.S. officials who spoke to Reuters about the proposal did so on condition of anonymity because Trump has not yet signed off on the idea.
It was unclear if the proposal, if confirmed in the coming days, might prolong the deployment of at least some troops at the border.
The commander of the mission told Reuters last week that the number of troops may have peaked at around 5,800, and he would soon look at whether to begin sending forces home or shifting some to new border positions. [nL2N1XQ0XV]
Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney