King Leonidas had his 300. President Trump has his 800. That's the number of soldiers Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has ordered to the southern border to greet the caravan of illegal immigrants originating from Honduras. The band of families and singles, traveling en masse to avoid exploitation by smugglers and coyotes, now numbers 10,000 souls, according to one report. It may take them weeks to reach the United States. A second caravan is already taking shape behind the first. It won't be the last.
An unauthorized march on a border—any border—is a challenge to national sovereignty. And it is precisely the idea of sovereignty that one of the groups supporting the caravan, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, wants to undermine. The confrontation is all the more emphatic when the men at the head of the column bear the flag not of the country they seek to enter but that of their homeland. Americans who oppose illegal immigration and are concerned at the mounting crisis in our border states, where thousands of family units and unaccompanied children are detained as an inundated bureaucracy decides their fates, look to Trump, Mattis, and the Army for relief.
Prepare to be disappointed. The soldiers aren't going to the border to stop the caravan. They're going to assist Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Health and Human Services, and other authorities as they take in the newcomers. There is little the government can do to turn back the tide. Why? Because the same rule of law challenged by illegal immigration also incentivizes and protects the illegal immigrants within the caravan. It's a paradox—one inflaming this most polarizing of issues at a moment of political decision.
The military can't solve the problem. But Congress can...