President Donald Trump signed a memo on Wednesday authorizing the use of National Guard troops to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. The number of troops and which points of the border they will help to secure has not been announced.
The memo states that:
“The situation at the border has now reached a point of crisis. The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people. My Administration has no choice but to act.”
The move to send the National Guard to the southern border is not unprecedented. Both former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama deployed the National Guard there in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
However, under the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act signed by former President Rutherford B. Hayes, National Guard troops cannot make arrests or use force on U.S. soil if they are deployed by the federal government (there is an exception, though, if they are deployed by individual states). Under these guidelines, their role would be limited mainly to surveillance and other support roles.
The memo goes on to say that:
“The President may assign a mission to the Secretary of Defense to support the operations of the Department of Homeland Security in securing our southern border, including by requesting use of the National Guard, and to take other necessary steps to stop the flow of deadly drugs and other contraband, gang members and other criminals, and illegal aliens into the country. The Secretary of Defense may use all available authorities as appropriate, including use of National Guard forces, to fulfill this mission.”
According to an Wednesday news release from the White House:
“More than a thousand people a day and more than 300,000 a year violate our sovereignty by illegally crossing the border. With our current laws and resources, we cannot stop illegal aliens from crossing the border or remove all of the illegal aliens we catch. Of the over 75,000 family units apprehended in FY 2017, only 2,605 were removed.”
Trump first revealed his plans to use troops to supplement security on the southern border during a luncheon on Tuesday with leaders from the Baltic states.
“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said.
Gerónimo Gutiérrez, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S., said in an interview on CNN on Tuesday that Trump's decision to send troops to the border is "certainly not something that the Mexican government welcomes, but as soon as we have further clarification, we can expect to have a better idea of where we are."