Update, April 4, 7:03 p.m.: The Associated Press has reported that “President Donald Trump will be signing a proclamation directing the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to work together with governors to deploy the National Guard to the southwest border.” The AP also noted that “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office says he will add more National Guard members to the roughly 100 already deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border in the state. Abbott said in a statement Wednesday that he welcomed the Trump administration’s announcement that it will ‘immediately’ deploy guardsmen to the southwest border.”
President Donald Trump has announced that his administration plans to use the military to secure the U.S.-Mexico border until a new border wall is built. The comments came from Trump during a lunch with world leaders and then again during a press conference; Trump originally claimed to have spoken about the plan with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. “We’re going to be doing things militarily until we can have a wall and proper security,” Trump said.
President Trump says he wants to use military to secure US-Mexico border until wall is built, calls it 'big step.' https://t.co/B2wNAXJCzK
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 3, 2018
“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step, we really haven’t done that before, or certainly not very much before.”
When questioned about the plan, Trump explained that the U.S. does not have laws, but instead has “catch-and-release.” Trump said that even when people are caught, they are immediately released and rarely come back to face court cases. Trump is ramping up his calls for border control following the recent omnibus budget bill, which failed to provide adequate funding for his multi-billion dollar vision. Trump was also upset about recent reports of a caravan of immigrants from across Latin America traveling through Mexico. Trump demanded Mexican officials take action and seemed to dare the caravan to try to cross the U.S. border.
According to the Associated Press, “Mexico routinely stops and deports Central Americans, sometimes in numbers that rival those of the United States. Deportations of foreigners dropped from 176,726 in 2015 to 76,433 in 2017, in part because fewer were believed to have come to Mexico, and more were requesting asylum in Mexico.”
As far as what Trump could actually order the military to do, his options may be a bit limited. Fox News reported that according to a memo obtained by Fox as well as discussions with officials, one area which the military could contribute patrols is at the Air Force’s Barry Goldwater live-fire range, along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Vox noted that Trump could follow the Obama and George W. Bush administrations by ordering the National Guard to the border. However, this practice has been ineffective and a financial waste in the past. In addition, The Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from being involved in civilian law enforcement operations.
Still, despite any of these apparent legal or constitutional limitations, it should be noted that the U.S. government has been lurching further and further into surveillance of American citizens. Widespread mass surveillance via the internet, cellphones, closed-circuit cameras, automatic license plate readers, facial recognition cameras, and more have been pervading daily lives with increasing urgency, including under the Trump administration.
In February, The Austin-American Statesman reported the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced plans for a new pilot program that will test out biometric facial recognition technology as part of an effort to identify fugitives or terror suspects:
Thanks to quantum leaps in facial recognition technology, especially over the past year, the future is arriving sooner than most Americ, the future is arriving sooner than most Americans realize. As early as this summer, CBP will set up a pilot program to digitally scan the faces of drivers and passengers — while they are in moving vehicles — at the busy Anzalduas Port of Entry outside of McAllen, the agency announced Thursday.
The Texas-Mexico border is being used as testing grounds for the technology. The results of the pilot program will be used to help roll out a national program along the entire southern and northern borders. Additionally, it was recently reported that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency now has access to a nationwide license plate recognition database after finalizing a contract with the industry’s top license plate data collection company. This database allows ICE to search a vehicle’s whereabouts over the last five years, as well as developing “hot lists” that can track particular vehicles indefinitely.
In February, it was revealed that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has access to a nationwide license plate recognition database after finalizing a contract with the industry’s top license plate data collection company. A copy of the contract shows that ICE finalized the deal in early January. The contract makes ICE the latest of several federal agencies who have access to billions of license plate records which can used for real-time location tracking.
In August 2017, Activist Post reported on the plans to launch a national program scan the faces of all airline passengers in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched a “Traveler Verification Service” (TVS) that intends to use facial recognition on all airline passengers, including U.S. citizens, boarding flights exiting the United States. That same month, it was reported that thirty-one sheriffs along the U.S.-Mexico border voted unanimously to adopt tools that will allow the collection and storing of iris scans.
When taken together, each of these pieces of information indicate a push towards a militarized border— one full of facial recognition cameras, license plate readers, biometric databases, social media monitoring, and ultimately, complete access to formerly private details.
Editor’s note, April 4, 2018, 7:03 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect new information from the Associated Press regarding adding National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.