The Pentagon announced that it expects to send around 300 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, breaking with the longstanding policy of avoiding troop-migrant contact.
A spokesperson for Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Charles Summers, said Friday that his boss is expected to green light the proposal shortly. However, the troops will not be allowed to perform any law enforcement role at the border. Instead, around 100 military cooks, 160 drivers and 20 lawyers will be deployed to assist immigration agencies as they deal with the ballooning migrant crisis.
“We will have some of our troops handing out meals, therefore would come in contact with migrants,” Summers stated Friday. The spokesman added that it was an “amendment to the current policy.”
The soon-to-be-deployed troops will help provide meals to detained migrants, drive them in buses, and attorneys with the Department of Defense will help process them. The moves will allow more Department of Homeland Security officials to focus on enforcing the rule of law, rather than processing the huge numbers of illegal migrants reaching the border.
The Posse Comitatus Act forbids members of the military from performing civilian law enforcement duties on U.S. soil unless Congress gives specific authorization. Soldiers, however, are allowed to provide support services to law enforcement. There are approximately 2,900 active duty and 2,000 National Guard troops currently deployed on the southern border.
“We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border. Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!” President Donal Trump tweeted on Wednesday, following reports of Mexican military personnel having temporarily detained and disarmed two U.S. soldiers on the border. Trump has long pressured the Mexican government to do more to stop the flow of Central American migrants passing through their country.
Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced earlier in April that its agents have made 418,000 apprehensions this fiscal year to date, a rate that already surpasses the 404,142 nationwide apprehensions in the entire 2018 fiscal year. Leaders in the Department of Homeland Security have designated the situation as a crisis, and say the influx of immigrants — many of them Central American families — has stretched their resources past the breaking point.
The Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector, for example, has already spent more money on food, formula, diapers and other basic medical care for detained migrants this fiscal year than the previous year — and we are only halfway through the 2019 fiscal year.
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