The migrant caravan marching up from Central America through Mexico stirred the U.S. immigration debate, becoming emblematic of the southern border neglect.

Some 1,200 people, mostly from Honduras, planned to traverse Mexico and make their way to the U.S. southern border where they would sneak on to U.S. soil or seek asylum.

The caravan is an annual spring event, but this year, thanks to a contentious Honduran election, the caravan is the largest one yet. Currently, the caravan is stalled in southern Mexico and will end their journey in Mexico City.

“The immediate trouble is a lack of transportation to get the group to the next stop, the city of Puebla en route to the Mexican capital. Organizers have been searching for a way to safely move the roughly 1,000 people,” reports The Washington Post. Organizers say those still hoping to make their way the U.S. will have to do so on their own.

Nonetheless, 1,200 believing they can easily gain access to America by exploiting southern border vulnerabilities and generous immigration laws has rankled Republicans, and Trump in particular. “The caravan doesn’t irritate me, the caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States,” said Trump.

In response, Trump promised to guard “our border with our military.”

Trump was immediately accused of “militarizing the border” as though preventing a veritable invasion is a negative use of military might.

What critics fail to discuss is that sending military forces to the southern border is not a novel idea. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama sent the National Guard to the southern border to support Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Agents.

In both cases, the National Guard served as support, leaving enforcement to (CBP).

Operation Jump Start

In 2006, President Bush sent approximately 6,000 National Guard members to the southern border to assist CBP. The operation lasted two years.

…the President called for up to 6,000 National Guard members to assist with surveillance, installing fences and vehicle barriers, as well as provide training. This support mission, Operation Jump Start, will provide significant assistance to securing the southern U.S. border during the next two years.

Timeline

CBP Border Patrol and the National Guard coordinated with the state governors and adjutants general to deploy National Guard troops in support of Border Patrol operations. This unprecedented cooperative effort has resulted in the deployment of 6,000 National Guard personnel to California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Deployment numbers are based on operational need and threat.

This two-year deployment supplements and supports current efforts while CBP hires and trains 6,000 additional Border Patrol agents and implements the Secure Border Initiative and SBInet.

Badges Back to the Border

National Guard units assist CBP by executing logistical and administrative support, operating detection systems, providing mobile communications, augmenting border-related intelligence analysis efforts, and building and installing border security infrastructure.

Operation Jump Start relieves Border Patrol agents from non-law enforcement duties, allowing them to focus on border security. To date more than 350 Border Patrol agents have been able to return to traditional frontline duties due to the presence of the Guard.

Operation Phalanx

In 2010, President Obama sent around 1,200 National Guard members to the southern border as a continuation of Operation Jump Start. Operation Phalanx wasn’t shut down until November of 2016.

From the U.S. Army:

The Army National Guard (ARNG) established Operation Phalanx in July 2010, based on an Executive Order from President Obama authorizing up to 1,200 Soldiers and Airmen along the 1,933-mile southwest border in support of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. Operation Phalanx is the successor operation to Operation Jump Start, which was declared by former President Bush authorizing up to 6,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from 2006 through 2008. Operation Phalanx, scheduled to end in June 2011, provides support primarily from the Southwest Border States of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The National Guard Soldiers and Airmen assigned to Operation Phalanx have been serving as a force multiplier for the U.S. Border Patrol by spotting border intrusions and providing technical support. The National Guard has performed tasks such as ground surveillance, criminal investigative analysis, command and control, mobile communications, transportation, logistics, and training support.

According to Watchdog.org, Phalanx was credited with intercepting some 110,000 would-be border crossers.

Trump has yet to release details of his plans to sent military assistance to the southern border, but if he does, he will join his predecessors in employing military support to border defense.

Update: Looks like Trump will also deploy the National Guard