NewsNational News


Active troops authorized to protect border personnel, per White House memo

Posted at 8:03 AM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 17:38:12-05

The White House has officially told the Pentagon that US troops along the border are authorized to protect Customs and Border Protection personnel, according to ABC News.

ABC’s Luis Martinez reported late Tuesday night that “the Pentagon has received a memo on border security from the White House,” according to Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza, a Pentagon spokesperson. Martinez has since obtained a copy of the memo, detailed in-full below. 

That memo authorizes active duty military to protect CBP officials if they are overwhelmed, ABC News says. 

This could, under certain circumstances, mean directing troops to temporarily detain migrants in the event of disorder or violence against border patrol agents.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday such detention would be measured in "minutes, not even hours," and does not mean troops would be performing law enforcement duties. He said the troops also could use lethal force, if necessary, to protect the border patrol.

Mattis said he would only exercise such authority after receiving a specific request from the Department of Homeland Security. He said this has expanded his authority but not the military's border mission, which is still due to conclude Dec. 15.

In early November, the Pentagon rejected a request from the White House for troops to act as emergency law enforcement at the border.

Below is the full memo sent to Secretary Mattis from White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly:

November 20, 2018
Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General , the Secretary of Homeland Security
Subject: Department of Defense Support to Border Security

Credible evidence and intelligence indicate that migrant caravans originating from Central America and moving toward the southern border of the United States (southern border) may prompt incidents of violence and disorder that could threaten US customs and Border Protection and other United States Government personnel and prevent them from performing the Federal functions necessary to secure and protect the integrity of the southern border.

In light of this threat, the President has determined that it is necessary to use units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the United State (Department of Defense military personnel) at appropriate ports of entry to support eh Department of Homeland Security by temporarily protecting US Customs and Border protection and other United States government personnel and by protecting their performance of Federal functions.

Accordingly, the President has directed the Secretary of Defense to deploy appropriate numbers of Department of Defense military personnel to appropriate ports of entry to carry out this protection mission. To carry out that mission, these deployed Department of Defense military personnel may perform those military protective activities that the Secretary of Defense determines are reasonably necessary to ensure the protection of Federal personnel, including a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention, and cursory search. 

Department of Defense personnel shall not, without further direction from the President, conduct traditional civilian law enforcement activities, such as arrest, search, and seizure in connection with the enforcement of the laws.

The President has further directed that the Secretary of Defense shall execute these responsibilities in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, including regarding the appropriate ports of entry at which to deploy Department of Defense military personnel.  The Secretary of Defense may determine the duration of this deployment, but shall consult with the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security prior to withdrawing Department of Defense military personnel.

The Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security may delegate to subordinate officials of their respective Departments any of the authority conferred upon them by the President's order.

John F Kelly