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On Wednesday, President Donald Trump officially signed a memorandum to deploy the National Guard to the southwest border.  Key details are still being hashed out, such as  the numbers of troops, how long they will be deployed, how much it will cost and where they will go.

According to WRAL News, the memo Trump signed Wednesday evening, declared that the defense secretary “shall request use of National Guard personnel” to secure the border and that the homeland security secretary will work with him to train and direct the troops in that mission.

Also stated in the memo is that “the security of the United States is imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border.”

The decision was first announced by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Wednesday afternoon during the daily briefing.  Last fall, a study from the Department of Homeland Security determined the border was at its most secure in regards to illegal immigration in history — though numbers released by the DHS late Wednesday showed a sudden spike in attempted crossings last month.

The Homeland Security Secretary said troops could be sent to the border as soon as Wednesday night.  However Nielsen also added that she didn’t want to “get ahead” of the state governors who will have a heavy say in the deployment of troops, but said it would be similar to past such efforts.

Since the government spending package passed for the year, which included $1.6 billion for border security but only a few dozen miles of new border barrier construction, Trump has been very critical of Congress for denying him more money.

However sending National Guard troops to the border is not unprecedented. Both of Trump’s predecessors also did so, though the moves were criticized as costly and of limited effectiveness.

US law limits what the troops can do. Also federal law prohibits the military from being used to enforce laws, meaning troops cannot actually participate in immigration enforcement. In the past, they’ve served in support roles like training, construction and intelligence gathering.

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