Military to spend a month painting border barriers to "improve aesthetic appearance"

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez

/ CBS News

Washington — Members of the military deployed near the U.S.-Mexico border have been assigned to spend a month painting a mile-long stretch of barriers to improve their "aesthetic appearance."

Lawmakers were notified of the action on Wednesday in an email message from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has asked the Pentagon multiple times in recent months to deploy troops near the southern border to support the agency as it faces an unprecedented surge of Central American families and unaccompanied children heading to or in between ports of entry.

According to the email, the text of which was provided to CBS News by a congressional aide, an unspecified number of service members were set to paint barriers in the California border town of Calexico. The task, according to the email, would last approximately 30 days.

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"While the primary purpose is to improve the aesthetic appearance of the wall, there may also be an operational benefit based on our experience with painted barrier in Nogales, Arizona," the email read.

In this April 5, 2019, photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle sits near the a section of the U.S. border wall with Mexico in Calexico, Calif. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

In its notification to Congress, DHS said painting of border barriers in Tucson, Arizona had allowed Border Patrol to combat the "camouflaging tactics of illegal border crossers" who sought to evade detection. The agency said migrants also appeared to have "greater difficulty" scaling painted bollards along the border.

On Twitter, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-highest Democrat in the Senate, denounced the task as a "disgraceful misuse" of taxpayer money. "Our military has more important work to do than making Trump's wall beautiful," he added.

DHS informed Congress today that troops are going to spend the next month painting the border wall & “the primary purpose is to improve the aesthetic appearance.” A disgraceful misuse of taxpayer $$. Our military has more important work to do than making Trump’s wall beautiful.

— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) June 5, 2019

Officials from the DHS and Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

First published on June 5, 2019 / 7:56 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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