Are Trump’s Troop Deployments To The Border Breaking A 140-Year-Old Law?

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Most Americans probably haven’t heard of the Posse Comitatus Act. But the federal law, passed in 1878, bars active duty troops from being used as police within the borders of the US. And some Democrats believe that the 5,000+ troops station along the southern border are in violation of the law, despite the Trump Administration’s claims that they’re only there to “support” the CBP personnel.

Troops

But in recent weeks, troops have been stationed inside a migrant detention facility in Donna, Texas. They were initially deployed there to perform welfare checks – the troops are allowed to perform emergency medical care – but their duties have ‘evolved’ to include acting as de facto prison guards, something that would be a clear violation of Posse Comitatus, NBC reports.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness, says having active duty troops monitor migrants is “teetering on the edge of the posse comitatus law.”

“It’s not the role of the U.S. military to be a prison guard,” he said. “This is certainly mission creep” and could put U.S. military service members “in a precarious legal situation.”

One former defense official told NBC that monitoring migrants is probably “a bridge too far.” If soldiers tried to break up a fight, they’d be in clear violation of the law.

Right now, interactions between the troops and migrants are limited “as much as possible,” said John Cornelio, particularly at the detention facility where troops are now stationed.

“At the Donna Facility specifically,” said Cornelio, “unarmed military personnel monitor the migrants for signs of medical distress, possibility for unrest, unusual behavior and unresponsiveness. In the event of a medical emergency or other reportable event, our military personnel immediately notify CBP personnel on-site who respond to the incident or event in question.”

“Monitoring the wellness of migrants is not a law enforcement function, and this activity has been reviewed by our legal staff to ensure compliance with the Posse Comitatus Act and applicable law. CBP personnel are always present to provide force protection, physical security and perform their law enforcement duties.”

One defense official told NBC that the troops weren’t “guarding” the migrants, saying they were just monitoring them for signs of health issues and performing welfare checks. If the troops spot a problem, they’re supposed to alert a CBP official and have them handle the situation, unless there’s a medical emergency or something else that would require an emergency response. Furthermore, the troops aren’t armed, which cuts against claims that they’re performing a ‘police’ function.

Expect pro-migrant groups to try and challenge the troop deployments to the border: we’re surprised they haven’t already.


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