Vice News visited the site of a new U.S. base camp that’s now home to several hundred active-duty U.S. Army soldiers deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border by President Trump ahead of the midterm elections to confront the so-called caravan of migrants headed north from Central America.
The deployment of more than 5,000 troops to the border last month has been seen by many as an expensive political stunt, estimated to cost taxpayers $200 million.
Vice News notes that soldiers “have virtually nothing to do” at the muddy and cold camp.
Here at Base Camp Donna, 10 miles east of McAllen, Army engineers have built facilities to accommodate a long-term deployment: It now has hot showers, laundry facilities, and a kitchen to produce two hot meals a day. The medical tent is outfitted for handling all manner of injuries, but there’s been nothing much besides mosquito bites and scrapes from the concertina wire they’re putting up.
Many of the soldiers here have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, except here, there’s no enemy to fight and no immediate action needed. The migrant caravan they’re supposed to be responding to is weeks away and headed to Tijuana, 1,500 miles to the West. The only concrete mission the troops have engaged in so far is “hardening” parts of the border with the spiked wire.
Major Derek Wamsley, a public affairs officer at the base, told Vice News that when that mission was completed, “we move back here and wait for the next request from Customs and Border Protection.”
From October 16 to November 6, Election Day, Trump sent 45 tweets mentioning the “border” between the United States and Mexico. Between October 16 and October 31, he issued nine tweets referring to the “caravan.”
Since November 6, Trump has not once mentioned the “caravan” in a tweet, according to a CNN analysis. Trump has used the word “border” a single time, in a tweet on November 9.
That discrepancy between Trump’s rhetoric in the runup to the election and his rhetoric after it exposes, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what most neutral observers initially suspected: That Trump’s decision to seize on the caravan of migrants making their way across Mexico in hopes of entering the United States was 100% a political ploy to rev up his base.
In one pre-election tweet, Trump threatened to send as many as 15,000 troops to the border.