Posse Comitatus? William C. Banks Explains What the US Military Can & Can’t Do on the US-Mexican Border

New details on Trump’s troop deployments to the Mexican border

(Military Times | April 4, 2018) President Donald Trump is ordering U.S. troops to the southern U.S. border, but the move does not appear to be as unusual as the White House first billed it this week.

Guardsmen would not have the authority to participate in law enforcement, such as preventing an illegal crossing.
The Pentagon and White House on Wednesday walked back President Donald Trump promise to handle border security “militarily,” saying the proposed moves will be restricted to National Guard personnel and be similar to past operations in Southern states …

… If the Guard is deployed as it has been in the past, there would be little those troops could do to stop crime along the border, said William Banks, author of “Soldiers on the Home Front: The Domestic Role of the American Military” and director at the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University’s College of Law.

The Posse Comitatus Act prevents the federal government from using federal troops to conduct local law enforcement on U.S. soil. Banks called it the backbone of colonists’ grievances when the United States declared independence from England.

“The phrase is known by every Private 1st Class in the U.S. military,” Banks said.

It’s also why National Guard forces are under state control, Banks said. The president could federalize the National Guard in an extreme situation, such as when Bush requested that the Guard forces responding to Hurricane Katrina be placed under federal control.

But even then, guardsmen would not have the authority to participate in law enforcement, such as preventing an illegal crossing or conducting a drug interdiction, he said.

There are exceptions, Banks said. Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 185.4 provides National Guard troops “immediate response authority” — the ability to defend themselves if they are under immediate threat.

There is also a broader, short-term “emergency authority,” which allows the forces to take control “in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances” …

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Pentagon hustles to jump in line with Trump’s border directive

(AFP | April 4, 2018) Pentagon planners scrambled Wednesday to find ways to support President Donald Trump’s surprise edict that he would send “the military” to guard America’s southern border.

“The president would need a legal authorization to carry out that mission. I doubt that he could get it.”
The commander-in-chief’s seemingly off-the-cuff directive blindsided officials Tuesday, when Trump said the military would guard the frontier until “we can have a wall and proper security.”

It took hours for the White House to clarify that Trump’s plan involved mobilizing the National Guard, and not active-duty troops, but Defense Department officials kept looking for other ways to bolster border security …

… Syracuse University professor William Banks, who has written a book about the domestic role of the American military, said the Pentagon might find it simplest to offer support other than regular troops, such as logistical or intelligence support to the civilian agencies on the border.

“It would be extraordinary to have so-called boots on the ground involved in enforcing (immigration) laws,” Banks told AFP.

“The president would need a legal authorization to carry out that mission. I doubt that he could get it.” …

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