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Trump Wanted It. The Pentagon Said No. Here's Why

Defense officials wouldn't let troops enforce domestic law, officials say
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 3, 2018 10:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Trump administration asked, and the Pentagon said no—to using troops on the southern border for law-enforcement purposes, CNN reports. Two defense officials say the Department of Homeland Security wanted US troops to provide "crowd and traffic control" and protect Customs and Border Protection officers from the so-called "caravan" of Central American migrants heading for the US border. But on Oct. 26, the Pentagon denied that request, while agreeing to provide engineers, medical personnel, and air and logistics support. Why the refusal? Because the Department of Defense apparently argued that active-duty troops don't have the authority.

Indeed, the Posse Comitatus Act prohibits US troops from enforcing domestic law unless authorized by Congress or the US Constitution. "Limiting military involvement in civilian affairs is basic to our system of government and the protection of individual constitutional rights," the 1878 act reads. A DHS official denied that Trump's request constituted "law enforcement activities," while military analysts said Trump could just use US Marshals, ICE, or the National Guard for such activities. Meanwhile, Trump is easing off his remark that US troops can "consider it a rifle" if migrants throw rocks, per Fox 13 Now. If soldiers or agents "are going to be hit in the face with rocks, we're going to arrest those people," he said Friday. "That doesn't mean shoot them." (Meanwhile, staffers at an Idaho school dressed up for Halloween as "stereotypical" Mexicans with a cardboard border wall.)

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