The thousands of troops deployed to the southern U.S. border will most likely spend Thanksgiving setting up camp and eating prepackaged meals instead of being able to return to their families.
At Base Camp Donna, located between a highway and the border wall separating Texas and Mexico, troops barely have access to electricity, The New York Times reported Saturday. Showers ― which weren’t installed until last week ― can only last a maximum of seven minutes in order to preserve water. Their tents don’t have air conditioning even though the heat is sweltering.
The soldiers spend their time trying to make the outpost livable, according to the Times. They play cards and take turns charging their electronic devices. They build barbed wire fences. There’s no mess hall or access to hot food, so instead they eat prepackaged meals.
Their deployment orders expire Dec. 15, meaning that they most likely won’t be making it home for Thanksgiving.
A caravan of thousands of migrants has spent weeks trekking through Central America toward the U.S.-Mexico border. President Donald Trump, claiming the caravan is filled with terrorists, gang members and drug dealers, decided to deploy additional forces to patrol the border in an attempt to keep people out of the country.
The Trump administration went ahead with plans to send more than 7,000 troops to patrol the border despite resistance from the Pentagon. The Defense Department rejected demands from the Department of Homeland Security that troops be armed in preparation for contact with migrants last month. Instead, the Pentagon agreed to allow the troops to provide air and logistics support.
“The support that we provide to the secretary of Homeland Security is tactical support based on the request from the commissioner of customs and border police,” Mattis told reporters earlier this month. “So we don’t do stunts in this department, thank you.”
Yet many argue that the deployment is a waste of time and resources, especially given that the caravan is still weeks away from the border.
“When you give a soldier a real mission, you have less of a morale problem, even if it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving,” said Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), a veteran of the Iraq war. “But when you send a soldier on a dubious mission, with no military value, over Thanksgiving, it doesn’t help morale at all.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) criticized the deployment and suggested that the troops be allowed to return home for Thanksgiving.
“Every member of Congress, including those that have not yet been sworn in, should be asked if they think that our Troops deployed to the southern border should be allowed to go home for the holidays,” he tweeted Sunday.