On Tuesday night a memo emerged from the White House authorizing the use of lethal force by troops positioned at the U.S. border.
Military Times reported that John Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, issued a cabinet order that allows troops to perform “military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary” to protect the nation’s borders, including “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary)”.
The memo, which relates to the 5,900 troops and 2,100 National Guard forces currently garrisoned at the U.S.-Mexico border, specifies that troops may engage in activities such as crowd control, temporary detention, and customary searches.
The legality of the memo has been called into question. According to Military Times, it could be in breach of the 1898 Posse Comitatus Act.
The Posse Comitatus Act prevents the U.S. Army from carrying out law enforcement duties unless the President explicitly requests it to do so to enforce federal authority or quell an insurrection.
Migrants attempting to enter the country at the U.S. border would not qualify as an incident of insurrection.
The law was originally enshrined to protect individual states from being occupied by federal government troops, however, it has since offered protections to U.S. citizens from being controlled or put down by the army.
John Kelly defended his memo by citing the threats migrants pose to U.S. stability and security. He explained in the signed document that there was “credible evidence and intelligence” that migrants heading towards the U.S. border could “prompt incidents of violence and disorder”, Military Times reported.
Donald Trump’s narrative towards migrants seeking to enter the U.S. at the Mexican border has become increasingly inflammatory in recent weeks. Trump told troops stationed at the almost 2,000-mile boundary that migrants throwing rocks at border guards should receive the same use-of-force as they would if they had threatened border guards with firearms.
He later attempted to ease public concerns by asserting that he wasn’t explicitly telling troops to shoot migrants. However, this latest memo suggests that could be exactly what the President and his Chief of Staff have in mind.