What the National Guard will and can't do on the border

Matt Saintsing
April 09, 2018 - 4:55 pm


National Guard troops being sent to the U.S.-Mexico border shouldn’t expect to make arrests, but instead will take some of the day-to-day pressure off federal and local law enforcement, so they can focus on patrols.

"They have capabilities to provide for us that can make it much easier for us to secure the border — things like air support, repairing, creating infrastructure to assist us, logistical support, assisting with surveillance capabilities," Chief Patrol Agent Aaron E. Hull of El Paso told reporters during a press conference in Santa Teresa, N.M., Monday.

"They're going to be providing administration support, not providing any law enforcement assistance. We provide all the law enforcement response."

The temporary deployment of National Guard troops, Hull said, will allow federal law enforcement officers to “enforce immigration law, which is why they were hired and deployed.”

The National Guard is limited in what it can do. That’s because as in other such deployments, National Guard forces are subject to the Posse Comitatus Act, a law that limits the use of federal military forces for law enforcement, unless they are federalized.

Around 500 members of the National Guard will be sent to the U.S.-Mexico border, the Defense and Homeland Security departments announced last week.

The decision to send American troops to the border, the two agencies said, is part of a broader strategy to support Customs and Border Protection, and local law enforcement.

So far two states, Texas and Arizona, announced plans to send National Guard members to the border over the next week. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has voiced her support for Trump’s plan to augment law enforcement.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said he will not cooperate with the plan.

The initial 500 could just be a start as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved a plan to send up to 4,000 guardsmen to the border on Friday.

But, this isn’t the first time a president sent troops to states that share a border with Mexico. President George W. Bush sent about 6,000 and Barack Obama ordered 1,200 during their respective presidencies.