WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday he thinks active-duty troops are “proud” to be deployed to the southern U.S. border to help with the immigration effort there, even if it means missing Thanksgiving celebrations with their families.
“Don’t worry about the Thanksgiving. These are tough people,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question about the controversial border mission. “They know what they’re doing, and they’re great. And they’ve done a great job.”
The comments came just a day after news reports that the deployment of 5,900 active-duty troops to the border states may be winding down, and a few hours before Pentagon officials announced a price tag for the mission so far of about $72 million.
Troops will be spending the holiday on base, and leave is up to individual commanders, Pentagon officials said.
“They are so proud to be representing our country on the border,” Trump said of the troops, adding that their presence is helping to deter “tough people that are coming in.”
Critics have blasted the deployment — prompted by concerns of a caravan of hundreds of migrants heading to the country’s border with Mexico — as little more than a pre-election stunt that could hurt overall military readiness.
But both Trump and Pentagon leaders have argued the move was a necessary step for national security, given problems with migrants crossing the border.
About 2,100 National Guard troops have been operating in the area since the spring, providing logistics support to border patrol personnel. The active-duty deployment was designed to amplify those efforts.
The military will have met initial the DHS request within the next week, but forces will remain through the holidays, at least.
Military officials have indicated that many of the active-duty troops could be home by Christmas but will spend the Thanksgiving holiday on deployment.
This week, the Defense Logistics Agency shipped more than 300,000 pounds of Thanksgiving food to deployed troops worldwide, including Afghanistan, Europe and the southern U.S. border.
Reporter Tara Copp contributed to this story.