Troops sent to the border have been authorized to use lethal force to stop immigrants from entering the country, according to the New York Post. Legal experts say this is a potential violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of military force being used for civilian law enforcement.
The cabinet order was signed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and gives military personnel the authorization to “perform those military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary.”
That includes “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention and cursory search,” according to the exact text of the order.
There are around 8,000 troops, both active-duty and National Guard forces, assigned to the Mexican border right now. They have been stationed at the border to fend off an approaching caravan of immigrants from Honduras. The group is largely comprised of families who are fleeing Honduras due to government corruption, gang and drug activity, and lack of jobs.
“They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police, I say consider it a rifle,” Donald Trump said earlier this month.
Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the caravan as invaders.
Part of the caravan has already reached border city Tijuana, but many more immigrants are still hundreds of miles away.
The authorization of lethal force means that military stationed at the border have the option to kill immigrants who appear to be a threat to border agents.
A statement issued by White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley says that “the brave men and women at Customs Border and Protection willingly put themselves in extremely dangerous situations every day to protect Americans and their families. The President’s authorization ensures the Department of Defense can step in to protect those who protect us.”
The Military Times says that this decision is unprecedented.
The order signed by Kelley claims that the White House has received intelligence that indicates the immigrants currently in Tijuana “may prompt incidents of violence and disorder” at the border, according to The Hill.
Thousands of Hondurans and Guatemalans have joined the caravan. They are currently either still walking toward the border or living in temporary shelters in their quest to gain asylum in the U.S.