UPDATED 1:54 p.m. PT – Wednesday Nov. 21, 2018
The White House is authorizing military personnel at the southern border to engage in law enforcement roles and use lethal force against illegal immigrants if necessary.
The cabinet order signed by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Tuesday adds crowd control and detention to the duties of troops deployed to the border, who have already been tasked with the protection of Border Patrol and customs agents, as well as fortifying the border. As of Wednesday there are about 5,900 active duty service members at the border along with about 2,100 National Guard troops.
Kelly says the move is in response to intelligence indicating migrants at the border in Tijuana may prompt incidents of violence and disorder.
The move comes as reports of a possible planned stampede of migrants across the San Ysidro, Calif. port of entry.
According to Angels without Borders, an advocacy group for illegal immigrants, the migrants could attempt to rush through port of entry in large numbers. Reports say the migrants would then blame U.S. forces for the resulting chaos and any related injuries.
But Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said during her visit to the border Tuesday, no one will get into the U.S. illegally.
“Some critics and media have stated that DHS is overreacting to the presence of a few hundred migrants,” Secretary Nielsen said. “The reality is that the majority of the caravan that we see is made up of single adult males or teenage males. In addition we have identified over 500 criminals to include known gang members contained in the flow of the caravan.”
Mexican authorities have arrested at least 34 migrants on drugs and violence related charges.