Trump weighing use of military to build and operate internment camps at the border
Donald Trump’s advisers met in the White House on Tuesday night to discuss a new role for the military on the border: building and operating internment camps for immigrants seeking asylum. Trump sent over 5,000 members of the military to the border just ahead of the elections in 2018 and has since promised to send “several thousand more.” Earlier this week, Trump repeated the call for more troops and complained about restrictions on military actions in a non-military situation, grousing that they “can’t act like a military would act” when dealing with women and children seeking asylum.
As NBC News reports, military troops are already being used in construction of a new central processing center for migrants, where they will be “temporarily detained” before getting a chance to apply for entry. The processing center is designed to be similar to the notorious facility already built in McAllen, Texas—a location where children have been held in chain-link cages apart from their families.
The proposed military internment camps would be “tent cities” designed to hold applicants for extended periods. An unnamed DHS official praised the idea of using the military to build these camps because “the military allows for faster construction than private contractors, who can protest decisions and slow down the process.”
Under the the Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are not allowed to perform the role of law enforcement inside the United States. However, the meeting of Trump officials apparently looked at whether the operation of detainment camps for refugees might fall outside this definition. Trump’s acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan gave his nod to the idea of sending more troops to the border “so long as their assigned mission is within the law.”
But of course, as events over the last week have made increasingly clear, the law is only what Trump says it is. Expect camps.