The Department of Defense recently issued a press release detailing the request for support that came from the Department of Homeland Security for border patrol support. “After receiving a request for assistance from the secretary of homeland security, the secretary of defense has approved providing mission-enhancing capabilities to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southwest border,” the statement read. “This assistance is in addition to the previously authorized support to CBP’s Operation Guardian Support mission.”
Operation Guardian Support provides support from the National Guard to assist in securing the U.S. southern border, as previously outlined by President Trump in April of this year. “National Guard units will assist the Border Patrol with logistical and administrative support, aerial support, surveillance efforts, border-related intelligence analysis efforts, and mechanical support,” an April press release said.
The responsibility of immigration enforcement and border patrol remains with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection law enforcement authorities. Military units are prohibited from acting as law enforcement domestically. The new troops that will be deployed will act in the same role that the National Guardsmen have for the past 6 months.
Today, #SecDef Mattis has approved a request for additional military personnel to support the Department of #HomelandSecurity’s border control efforts there. @DHSgov
Read more: https://t.co/n6Ja3xGRkP pic.twitter.com/15jWJYRwQi
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) October 26, 2018
The DoD statement outlined the specific duties that the new troops will perform in response to the request from Homeland Security. “The department will provide Defense Support to Civil Authorities with planning assistance, engineering support (temporary barriers, barricades, and fencing), fixed and rotary wing aviation support to move CBP personnel, medical teams to triage, treat and prepare for commercial transport of patients, command and control facilities, temporary housing for CBP personnel, and personal protective equipment for CBP personnel.”
Federal Law Guidance
Defense Support of Civil Authorities, or DSCA operations, have a long and storied history within the Department of Defense. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have published official guidance to “assist commanders and their staffs in planning, conducting, and assessing defense support of civil authorities.” These guidelines are used when the military is called upon to provide support to other departments, such as DHS, and state-level requests. DSCA operations, during which the DoD provides support when requested, remain separate from homeland defense operations in which the DoD is usually the lead authority. Border patrol efforts, such as those requested by CBP, clearly fall under DSCA guidelines.
The focus of support will be primarily with logistics, supplies, and coordination efforts. This is in compliance with the Posse Comitatus Act, a law which prohibits U.S. military from acting as law enforcement on American soil. The law was originally passed to prohibit federal troops from acting as police in former Confederate states following the Civil War. Any action by the military in a law enforcement capacity domestically must be authorized by Congress.
There are a few exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act which may come into play as the border debate continues. These include: the ability of the National Guard to act under state authority, domestic violence exemptions, aerial photography, search and surveillance, and providing equipment, training, and advice to civilian law enforcement during anti-drug efforts.
Who is Going?
U.S Northern Command will be the military’s lead and is planning to send over 5,000 active-duty troops to support.
In a press release dated November 1, NORTHCOM outlined the support that will be sent to the border. The operation, Operation Faithful Patriot, will bring assistance to “enhance CBP’s ability to impede or deny illegal crossings and maintain situational awareness as it contributes to CBP’s overall border security mission.”
— NORAD & USNORTHCOM (@Norad_Northcom) October 31, 2018
Additional troops will be based at nearby Base Support Installations (BSIs) to “serve as primary logistics hubs, during a response to a request for Defense Support to Civil Authorities.” These include Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca in Arizona; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Naval Air Facility El Centro, Naval Base Coronado, Naval Base San Diego, and Naval Base Point Loma in California; and Fort Bliss, Joint Base San Antonio, Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Naval Operations Support Center Harlingen and Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas.
NORTHCOM reports that an estimated 7,000 additional troops will be deployed from installations all over the United States in support of the request to support border patrol. These troops will come from units in Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; Scott Air Force Base, Illinois; Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia; Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and Fort Riley, Kansas.
The formal request came as a caravan of migrants approach the U.S. southwestern border. An estimated 4,000 individuals fleeing violence in Central America are en route to the U.S. border. Some have sought refugee status in Mexico. Political leaders are bringing attention to this hot issue as November mid-term elections approach.
President Trump has been outspoken about his stance on tightening security at America’s borders. He ran on the promise of building a wall to keep immigrants from crossing into the United States illegally. As the caravan (and mid-term election) approaches, the president’s rhetoric has only become more and more frantic.
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
Some think that the deployment of these additional troops is nothing more than a political move. “I see it as a political stunt and a waste of military resources and waste of tax dollars,” former CBP commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske was quoted in Military Times. “To use active-duty military and put them in that role, I think is a huge mistake. I see it as nothing more than pandering to the midterm elections by the president.”
Troops are already starting to arrive at the border, with more scheduled to deploy in support of the DHS request over the next few days and weeks. The caravan of immigrants is on track to arrive at the border in the next few weeks—we will have to wait and see how this issue influences the midterm elections and plays out for those at the border and those attempting to cross it.