“I told Mexico, and I respect what they did, I said, look, your laws are very powerful, your laws are very strong. We have very bad laws for our border and we are going to be doing some things, I spoke with (Defense Secretary James) Mattis, we’re going to do some things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” he said during a luncheon with leaders of the Baltic states…
Asked to clarify his comments during a joint news conference, Trump said he is “preparing for the military to secure our border” and he would be attending a meeting on the topic of border security with Mattis and others “in a little while.”…
Trump’s statement took many Pentagon officials by surprise Tuesday, in that they know of his desire to ratchet up border security, but are not sure what he meant exactly, according to multiple Defense Department and military officials.
Trump says a lot of things that take Pentagon officials by surprise. This is good politics, though, especially coming so soon after he pissed off some fans by caving on the wall in the omnibus bill. The caravan from Central America making its way through Mexico toward the U.S. is a perfect peg for it, as it’s the whole problem in slow motion. More than a thousand would-be illegals, making no bones about their intentions, are headed for the border with seemingly no way to repel them and an open question as to whether the Border Patrol can process that many all at once. The spectacle of 1,000+ people entering the country despite days of advance notice to America that they’re coming would be a ridiculous fiasco, particularly for Trump given his tough-guy border-hawk image. “Send in the troops” is the obvious play.
Is it legal? (If it isn’t, Bush and Obama have some explaining to do.) The Posse Comitatus Act bars the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement tasks, but there are exceptions. The National Guard is exempt *if* it’s ordered into action by the governor, not the president. Trump could lean on Greg Abbott, Doug Ducey, and other Republican border-state governors to lend a hand on this. Alternately, he could send the military into action at the border so long as it’s not technically handling “law enforcement” functions, in which case the Posse Comitatus Act wouldn’t apply. If the Border Patrol continues to handle processing illegals who are caught while the military handles “support” and surveillance duties, presumably that’s legal. That’s how Bush and Obama avoided trouble here, I believe.
Finally, the Act itself carves out an exception for “circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress.” In theory the GOP House and Senate could grant Trump legal authority to deploy the military, although that would be a bad precedent and not the sort of baggage Ryan and McConnell would want to take on, especially in an election year. (Early reaction to today’s news from House Republicans wasn’t great.) Trump can use his existing authority for the deployment. The temporary militarization of the border is only ever really a symbolic gesture aimed at communicating the president’s seriousness about enforcement for political reasons, anyway. That’s why so many presidents, including amnesty fans like Bush and Obama, have done it. It’s mostly theater, but good theater.
Maybe it’ll help him win back Ann Coulter and the four other Former Trumpers nationally who dumped him momentarily over the wall:
Why do we have a military? 1,500 migrants marching to our border – https://t.co/kfxgI3Jzmd
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 3, 2018
Can we get a couple of our troops in Afghanistan and Syria to fly over here really fast? 1,500 migrants marching to our border – https://t.co/kfxgI3Jzmd
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 3, 2018
One last thought. There are all sorts of things Democrats don’t want to do to limit immigration, illegal or otherwise. They don’t want to build a wall; they don’t want to implement E-Verify; they don’t want limits on chain migration. They’re usually okay, though, with shoveling money at hiring more personnel in return for Republican concessions on their own liberal priorities. Trump’s hoping to use the idea of the military on the border as a pressure point to get wall funding, but Schumer and Pelosi are just as likely to turn around and say that this proves that more manpower is really what’s needed. They’re probably going to propose hiring more Border Patrol in lieu of a wall to relieve the military, which is needed abroad. What will Trump say?
— CNN (@CNN) April 3, 2018