Tensions on the southern border haven’t subsided. The migrant caravan has spread out, but some on the journey have reached camps within sight of the US. And new reports indicate that the US troops who were deployed to assist in strengthening the border have now been given a new mandate to use lethal force.
The new is stirring up the debate about the role of the US troops. To date, the men and women working on this deployment have been improving infrastructure, defenses, and preparing for the arrival of asylum seekers.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly signed a memo Tuesday that tasked 5,800 troops with an additional role. They’ve been given the job of protecting Customs and Border Protection agents.
“Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed the new guidelines to reporters on Wednesday,” CBS writes, “but downplayed the level of interaction his troops will have with migrants. He said most troops aren’t carrying weapons and that the military would stay away from civilian law enforcement roles such as arrests, which are forbidden under in the Posse Comitatus Act.”
The 140-year-old the Posse Comitatus Act was designed to keep the military out of civil affairs inside the US. Exceptions to the act have to be authorized by the Constitution or by Congress. This is, in many opinions, one of the many checks on power in this country.
“I now have the authority to do more,” Mattis told reporters. “Now we’ll see what she asks me.”
The “she” he is referring to is Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who will make specific requests of the new troops.
Criticism of President Trump’s desire to arm his border reinforcement troops continues, as expected.
Michael Breen, president of Human Rights First, spoke to reporters about the decision. “This legally dubious ‘cabinet order’ creates confusion, undermines morale, and may very well lead to violence,” he said. “Americans should be thankful that those currently serving are likely to exhibit more judgment than their commander in chief.”