The White House plans to keep troops at the U.S.-Mexico border into January instead of bringing them home mid-December as originally planned, NPR reports. The move comes just days after U.S. troops reportedly tear-gassed migrants who were attempting to cross the border to seek asylum in the United States.
Defense officials confirmed that Trump is expected to extend the rare deployment of troops at the border to support Customs and Border Protection agents, though some people criticize the move as political rather than in the interest of U.S. security. Typically, National Guard personnel are deployed to help border agents.
Military troops were sent to the border in October to prepare for the arrival of a migrant caravan containing thousands of asylum-seekers from Central America. At least 5,900 active-duty personnel and 2,100 National Guard troops have been deployed.
Originally, troops were expected to return to their families in time for the holidays on December 15. Now, many could be kept in place into January, though part of the force may be swapped for fresh personnel.
Military troops can provide support to border agents, like repairing or installing fencing or assisting where needed, but actual law enforcement duties belong to Customs and Border Protection agents.
Trump has been criticized for what some see as politicizing the military and for authorizing the use of “lethal force” on the women, children, and men attempting to seek asylum in the United States.
The president deployed troops to the border shortly before the midterm election, calling the caravan of migrants a threat to national security and an “invasion.” He has received backlash for the move, with people saying that it is an attempt to excite his base rather than a real security threat.
Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
“The idea that a group of poor people from Central America, most of whom are women and children, pose some kind of threat to the national security of the United States is ridiculous,” said one retired Marine. “It’s a misuse of active duty forces.”
“It’s politicization of one of the few remaining nonpolitical institutions in the country — the United States military,” said a retired Army officer.
Last week, Trump said that the troops at the border can use lethal force against the migrants “if they have to.” The president has also threatened to shut the border entirely.
“If they have to, they’re gonna use lethal force,” he said. “I’ve — I’ve given the OK. If they have to. I hope they don’t have to.”
The move could open the Trump administration to legal challenges.
“The Posse Comitatus Act keeps the President from using troops to enforce domestic policy. For all the obvious reasons. It was enacted in 1878. Only Trump would think to violate it & as all things with Trump, once you violate a norm, it’s a fast slide down the slippery slope,” said attorney Joyce Alene.
The Posse Comitatus Act keeps the President from using troops to enforce domestic policy. For all the obvious reasons. It was enacted in 1878. Only Trump would think to violate it & as all things with Trump, once you violate a norm, it’s a fast slide down the slippery slope. https://t.co/SrR88FdGCe— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) November 21, 2018