Jul 25, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Active troops monitor detained migrants in Texas

This image shows an aerial shot of the detention center in Donna, Texas

Detention center in Donna, Tex. in 2017. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Active-duty troops are monitoring migrants from inside a Border Patrol holding facility in Donna, Texas, to perform welfare or "wellness" checks, NBC reports.

Why it matters: According to a congressman and a former defense official interviewed by NBC, these stationed troops are potentially in danger of violating the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of the military in civilian law enforcement.

What's happening: 4 defense officials — 2 current and 2 former — told NBC that the troops are stationed in Donna to perform wellness checks requested by Homeland Security last year. According to those officials, troops began those welfare checks earlier this summer.

  • These checks are reportedly intended to identify migrants' responsiveness and check for "signs of illness, any signs of violence, and signs of suspicious behavior," per NBC.
  • "The checks started with troops walking through the facility every 15 minutes, but troops now stand above the migrants and monitor them constantly," NBC reports.

What they're saying: Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) told NBC that having active duty troops supervise detained migrants is "teetering on the edge of the posse comitatus law."

  • A former defense official told NBC that if a service member responds to a fight, they'd play a different role than what is legally permitted under the Posse Comitatus Act, adding, "They should be way behind the fence of the border to help CBP."
  • John Cornelio, a spokesperson for the U.S. military's Northern Command, told NBC that, "In the event of a medical emergency or other reportable event, our military personnel immediately notify CBP personnel on-site who respond to the incident or event in question."

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