WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s unexpected declaration that he will send U.S. troops to the Mexico border threw Pentagon officials for a loop and raised new questions about the president’s desires on using the military and its resources.
“We’re going to be doing things militarily until we can have a wall and proper security,” Trump said today shortly before noon, according to a live broadcast of his remarks. Defense Secretary James Mattis was in the room when Trump made the remarks but his reaction was not shown.
Later in the day, at a press conference with the presidents of the three Baltic nations, Trump said the troops will go to the border because the U.S. is “very unprotected by our laws.
“We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States,” Trump said, according to a live broadcast of his remarks. “We will be meeting later on with General Mattis and other people. We’re going to be doing things militarily until we can have a wall and proper security,”
Last week, Trump suggested the military budget would be the bank for funds to build the border wall sought by the president. That ignited concerns on Capitol Hill, with some members of Congress saying the diversion of Pentagon funds for the wall would be illegal.
Pentagon officials who speak for Northcom (U.S. Northern Command) directed reporters to review Operation Jump Start, during which roughly 6,000 National Guard forces were sent to the Mexican border in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico from May 2006 to July 2008. That mission, ordered by President George W. Bush, is generally described as helping to secure the border and could be a role model for Trump’s proposed deployment of troops, the officials said.
The use of U.S. troops within the United States is strictly controlled and almost never permitted. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the Army and the Air Force from using federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies within the United States. The Act does not apply to the Navy or Marine Corps; however, the Navy has its own regulations that align with the act.
Other times the U.S. deployed forces to the border was in 2012, when President Barack Obama sent Army forces to be part of a joint operation between Northcom and the Customs and Border Patrol.
U.S. troops also went to the border in 1989 as Joint Task Force – Six, as part of counter-drug efforts. In 2004 it was redesignated as Joint Task Force- North, expanding duties to include homeland security and counter transnatio nal organized crime.
The most high-profile deployment came in the spring of 1916. After U.S. troops went into Mexico to chase Pancho Villa, the National Guard went to the border to secure it and patrol.