California Senator Kamala Harris said the deployment of military forces to the U.S.-Mexico border is a political stunt orchestrated by President Donald Trump for TV cameras.
Senator Harris, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, toured San Diego’s Camp Pendleton on Monday and met with Marines of 1 Marine Expeditionary Force.
Harris was briefed on 1 MEF’s operations and its role in national defense and intelligence, but said she visited the base to meet with military families and thank them for their service and sacrifice.
She also criticized the deployment of more than 1,100 Marines, and thousands more troops from other branches, to assist Customs and Border Patrol in what it is calling Operation Secure Line, a "border hardening" mission meant to prepare the area’s infrastructure for the arrival of thousands of migrants hoping to seek asylum in the United States.
Harris said she believes the administration’s decision to deploy troops to the border was based on a political agenda and said it was an “inappropriate use of the country’s limited resources.
“These [service members] who are deployed are going to leave their families, they will not be home, it looks like, for Thanksgiving, all because there needed to be some demonstration for the TV cameras based on a political agenda instead of what is a national security threat,” the Senator said.
The Department of Defense insisted last week that the troops were sent there to help CBP and nothing else. Analysts and the Pentagon estimate that the entire deployment operation could cost $200 million.
Harris also spoke about Marines and other service members’ involvement in the fight against devastating wildfires burning across the state, and used it as an example of how military members affect people and communities in their country whom they’ll never meet or visit.
“Part of the importance of moments like this is remembering that there are real men and women behind the seal of the United State of America who are dedicating their lives in service and we cannot ever thank them enough for all that they do,” Harris said.
Harris also said she spent time with spouses of deployed and active-duty Marines who are concerned about their safety and livelihood in military housing, and said it was important that troops be given the “dignity they are due.”
Homes on Camp Pendleton and other military bases across the country were found to have mice infestations and mold problems, according to a Reuters report.
A letter signed by Harris and fellow California Senator Diane Feinstein asked Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Pentagon to conduct a fact-finding mission into the problems.
Harris said humidity and mold were among the concerns of Marine families she spoke with Monday.
A spokesperson for the Government Accountability Office told NBC 7 a review of military housing conditions was ordered by the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
Harris was also critical of the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General, saying the Attorney General should be someone who is constitutionally appointed and someone who will be “very clear that they will protect Bob Mueller’s investigation.”
The senator tweeted earlier in the day that she supports a lawsuit challenging the appointment filed by senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).