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David Inserra specializes in cyber and homeland security policy, including protection of critical infrastructure, as policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. Read his research.
With a so-called “caravan” of several thousand individuals trekking through Mexico and bound for the U.S., President Donald Trump is considering the option of sending U.S. troops to help close the southern border.
Basics - Border
Here are the basics of how the military can and can’t be used at the border.
What laws govern the use of the military in the U.S.?
Posse - Comitatus - Act - Army - Air
The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the Army and Air Force from being used to enforce the laws of the U.S. with only select exceptions. Additional statues and Department of Defense policy directives have further applied Posse Comitatus to the Navy and Marine Corps. The only branch of the military with broad law enforcement authority is the Coast Guard.
Other specific exceptions where the military can enforce laws include:
Emergency - Authority - Event - Disturbances - Disasters
Emergency authority in the event of “sudden and unexpected civil disturbances, disasters, and calamities”
The National Guard when acting under authority of the state governor.
Authority - Border
Under what authority can troops be deployed to the border?
The National Guard can carry out law enforcement missions when it remains under the control of the governor, avoiding the restrictions of Posse Comitatus. This can happen in two ways:
State - Active - Duty - National - Guard
State Active Duty: The National Guard are called up by, and remain under the control of the governor. They are deployed at the expense of the state.
Title 32: Similar to State Active Duty, Title 32 of U.S. law allows a governor to call up and control that state’s National Guard, but the guardsmen are paid...
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