Ahead of his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump warned that he would use the military to form “a Human Wall” if he can’t get funding for his proposed barrier along the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
“Tremendous numbers of people are coming up through Mexico in the hopes of flooding our Southern Border,” Trump tweeted. “We have sent additional military. We will build a Human Wall if necessary. If we had a real Wall, this would be a non-event!”
The president’s tweet comes just hours before he is set to deliver his State of the Union address, which was initially delayed amid the partial government shutdown. That standoff, which has only temporarily been resolved, was triggered by Trump's demand for border-wall funding, which Democrats rejected. Trump on Tuesday night is expected to make immigration and border security a centerpiece, and it comes days after the Pentagon announced the deployment of 3,750 more active-duty troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.
A congressional committee is currently working to reach a deal on border security funding to avert another partial government shutdown, but Trump has hinted at declaring a national emergency if the deal doesn’t include funds for a border wall.
Trump already ordered the deployment in October 2018 of more than 2,000 troops to the border in response to the impending arrival of a caravan of asylum-seekers from Central America.
The Pentagon has approved an extended U.S. deployment to the border through the end of September.
Members of Congress have questioned whether the border mission is distracting troops from their work of fighting extremists abroad and training for combat. The first active-duty troops were sent to the border on about Oct. 30 for a mission that was to end Dec. 15. It has since been extended twice.
"What impact does it have to readiness to send several thousand troops down to the Southern border? It interrupts their training. It interrupts their dwell time," Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at a hearing last Tuesday.
Vice Adm. Mike Gilday, the director of operations for the Joint Staff, told the panel that he does not believe military readiness has been significantly affected. He said some units have missed training opportunities because of the deployment and others have seen less time at home between deployments than the military likes to provide.
But he said there is an effort to rotate service members in and out of the mission every six to eight weeks in order to minimize any impact.
The Associated Press contributed to this report,