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Pentagon sending 320 troops to border for cooking and driving around illegal immigrants

Border Patrol Agents (BPA) assigned to El Paso Sector, El Paso Station (EPT/EPS) apprehended a group of approximately 127 illegal aliens. (Jaime Rodriguez Sr./U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
April 30, 2019

The Pentagon will be sending 320 troops to the southern border to monitor, transport, and feed illegal immigrants.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the deployment request from the Department of Homeland Security, which will keep the additional troops on the border until Sept. 30 at a cost of $7.4 million, Washington Times reported Tuesday.

The troops will relieve Border Patrol agents who are currently performing those “babysitting” duties, which allow the agents to return to their posts at the border, especially points of entry

Border Patrol agents are spending up to 40 percent of their time conducting welfare checks, or transporting migrants to processing or medical care.

“DoD personnel will assist in driving high-capacity CBP vehicles to transport migrants; providing administrative support, including providing heating, meal distribution and monitoring the welfare of individuals in CBP custody; and attorney support to ICE,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in a statement.

“DoD personnel will not perform any law enforcement functions,” Lt. Col. Davis added. “In any situation that requires DoD personnel to be in proximity to migrants, DHS law enforcement personnel will be present to conduct all custodial and law enforcement functions, and provide force protection of military personnel.”

The request is part of a $21.9 million military expansion effort on the southern border for 2019.

The DHS request for additional troops that Shanahan approved also included waivers to bypass long-held rules forbidding contact between military personnel and the migrants. The waivers were designated for lawyers, cooks, and drivers in the military so they could deploy to the border and perform their roles for the migrants.

Cooks will be tasked with distributing food to migrants held in detention centers and as well as occasionally documenting the care received by migrants.

Drivers will transport migrants to and from detention centers while being in a segregated compartment and accompanied by Customs and Border Protection officials.

Military lawyers will be tasked with deportation hearings for migrants in New Mexico, Louisiana, and New York.

Aside from detailing what the troops would be permitted to do, the documents also stipulate what they cannot do. The documents specifically state that military service members cannot conduct law enforcement activities due to the Posse Comitatus Act.

The act, passed in 1898, prohibits U.S. troops from acting in the role of law enforcement while in U.S. territory. The intent of the law was to prevent federal troops from exercising control over states.

The Pentagon has been careful in crafting language so that military personnel’s duties have not encroached on the act, something they also did in Nov. 2018 when authorizing military personnel to protect border agents.