WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump has authorized the military troops deployed along the Mexican border to use force “if necessary” to protect the border patrol, the White House said on Wednesday.
However, the Pentagon insisted that the troops will not carry firearms.
“The president’s authorization ensures that the Department of Defense can act to protect those who protect us,” the White House Deputy Press Secretary, Hogan Gidley, told EFE.
So far, the nearly 5,900 military personnel deployed along Mexican border could only use force against immigrants in self-defense, but Trump’s authorization opens the door for them to use it “if necessary” to “protect” agents of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“If force were required to protect CBP, they are now authorized to use it,” a White House source, who requested anonymity, told EFE.
The White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, sent a letter on Tuesday to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, communicating the authorization of the president.
However, Mattis stressed on Wednesday that until now CBP has not “called for any lethal force” to protect their agents, and clarified that the military will not carry “firearms.”
“They’re not even carrying guns so, just relax. Don’t worry about it, okay?” Mattis told reporters at a press conference.
Trump insisted on Wednesday in a tweet, without providing evidence, that there are “criminals” among the Central American immigrants of the caravans that are heading since several weeks to the United States.
The deployment along the border of thousands of soldiers has served his government to mark muscle before the arrival of the caravans. However, in reality the role of soldiers is limited by law, so they have dedicated themselves to strengthening the border fence that separates the US and Mexico and to help CBP in the transportation of supplies.
Mattis argued that Trump’s order does not violate the 1878 law known as “Posse Comitatus,” which prohibits the use of soldiers for security and public order tasks at the national level.
“There’s no violation here, at all. We’re not going to arrest, or anything else,” he said.
The Pentagon Chief insinuated that the only thing the military could do would be to prevent someone (an immigrant) from hitting someone (of the CBP) and then handing him/her over to others for their arrest, but without using firearms.