Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake calls troops’ border deployment a ‘stunt’

Nov 14, 2018, 7:54 AM | Updated: 1:26 pm
(AP File Photo)...
(AP File Photo)
(AP File Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said deploying troops to the U.S. border with Mexico to await a caravan of migrants was a “stunt” and he would tell soldiers who asked why they were there that they shouldn’t be.

Flake made his comments Wednesday morning, the same day Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was scheduled to visit troops deployed to the Southwest border in Texas, where they will assist border agents tasked with guarding against the caravan coming from Central America.

Troops stationed in Tucson were “not forward-deployed, actually, on the border, so I think you can’t call it anything but a stunt here,” Flake told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

If a soldier asked him what they were doing there, “I don’t know what I could tell them other than we shouldn’t be doing this and this wasn’t an issue Congress was involved in, it was an executive decision,” he said.

President Donald Trump ordered about 5,200 troops to the border in late October as thousands of migrants make their way from Central American to the U.S. border seeking asylum. The first group reached Mexico City last week.

The unarmed troops cannot arrest immigrants nor will they likely have any contact with them. Troops have been putting down barbed wire, setting up medical sites and other support.
Now, more than 7,000 troops have been sent to the border in Arizona, California and Texas.

On his way to Texas, Mattis said the use of active duty troops at the border in some ways provided good training for war.

The Pentagon chief said that within a week to 10 days the 5,800 troops deployed for the border mission will have accomplished all the tasks requested by Customs and Border Protection.

He added that additional tasks were likely to be added, and did not say how soon the whole mission might end.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we have soldiers there … it’s unfortunate they’re going to be away from family during the holidays coming up and we just don’t know really what for,” Flake said.

The outgoing Republican, a longtime critic of Trump, added border duties, “…could be handled by civilians (and) Border Patrol.”

Flake appeared on the cable-news show with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake calls troops’ border deployment a ‘stunt’