Pentagon sending 3,750 extra forces to border with Mexico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is sending 3,750 additional U.S. forces to the southwest border with Mexico for three months to support border agents, the Department of Defense said on Sunday.

The deployment will raise the total number of active-duty forces supporting Customs and Border Protection agents there to about 4,350, it said.

The Pentagon disclosed the official figure days after a Democratic lawmaker said about 3,500 extra troops would be deployed.

President Donald Trump, who has portrayed the situation at the border as a crisis, was expected to talk about immigration and his proposal for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico during the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Trump's demand that money for the wall be included in spending legislation prompted an impasse with Democrats that led to a 35-day partial federal government shutdown that ended on Jan. 25.

If lawmakers cannot reach a deal on the border security situation by Feb. 15, Trump has threatened to let the government shut down again or to declare a national emergency as a way to circumvent Congress and get his wall money.

"I don't take anything off the table," he said in a CBS interview broadcast on Sunday.

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National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd
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National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd
UNITED STATES - MARCH 09: Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, is interviewed by CQ in Washington, March 9, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: (L-R) Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies Steven Camarota, President of the National Border Patrol Council Brandon Judd, Director of the Remembrance Project Maria Espinoza, Agnes Gibboney, mother whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant, and Seth Stodder, Secretary for Boarder of Immigration and Trade Policy, testify during a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee April 27, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The subcommittee held a hearing on 'The Border Wall: Strengthening our National Security.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: President of the National Border Patrol Council Brandon Judd testifies during a hearing before the Subcommittee on National Security of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee April 27, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The subcommittee held a hearing on 'The Border Wall: Strengthening our National Security.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: (L-R) Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd, Center for Immigration Studies fellow Andrew Arthur and Truman Center President and CEO Michael Breen are sworn in before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's National Security Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The witnesses gave testimony about a caravan of Central American migrants that drew President Donald Trump's ire and was stopped as it moved through Mexico earlier this month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd (L) and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw visit before testifying to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's National Security Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The witnesses gave testimony about a caravan of Central American migrants that drew President Donald Trump's ire and was stopped as it moved through Mexico earlier this month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: (L-R) Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw, National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd, Center for Immigration Studies fellow Andrew Arthur and Truman Center President and CEO Michael Breen testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's National Security Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The witnesses gave testimony about a caravan of Central American migrants that drew President Donald Trump's ire and was stopped as it moved through Mexico earlier this month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump listens to Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council, speak about border security in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 3, 2019. - President Trump gave a statement on the government shutdown and border wall in what was his first time behind the podium in the White House briefing room. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, speaks while U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a White House press briefing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Trump congratulated Nancy Pelosi on her 'tremendous achievement' while he also pushed for funds for a border wall. Photographer: Tasos Katopodis/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The Pentagon first approved the high-profile deployment of active-duty U.S. troops to the Mexico border in October, before the November congressional elections. The move was embraced by Trump's supporters, including fellow Republicans in Congress.

Critics called the deployment a political stunt and scoffed at Trump’s comparisons of caravans of Central American migrants, including women and children, to an "invasion."

The Pentagon says the U.S. military will operate mobile surveillance cameras in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, a mission scheduled to run through Sept. 30. Some of the additional troops will also string up 150 more miles (240 km) of concertina wire.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the latest deployment on Jan. 11, according to the statement. But a figure was not disclosed until Thursday, when Democratic U.S. Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said 3,500 additional troops were being sent.

Smith criticized senior Pentagon officials for failing to disclose the information during a hearing before his committee in Congress on the issue just two days earlier.

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