Report: DHS Makes Unprecedented Move, Asks Civilian Cops To Help at the Border


Over the past several weeks, all eyes have been on America’s southern border. The frontier between Tijuana, Mexico and San Ysidro on the U.S. side has become the focal point of an immigration crisis that has been simmering for years.

As the migrant caravan, which is now encamped in northern Mexico, approached the border, President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. military to help backup U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with their Border Patrol partners.

Now, it looks like even more backup could be on the way. On Friday, Politico reported that they have obtained a memo from the Department of Homeland Security that requests extra law enforcement officers from a variety of agencies.

Those civilian cops would be used to help reinforce border security efforts and perform duties that the military cannot perform due to legal limits.

“The request suggests that personnel with such assignments as guarding diplomats, patrolling national parks, and protecting nuclear weapons might effectively ‘become Customs and Border Protection personnel,’ as one former Justice Department official put it, with the power to arrest border-crossers,” Politico reported.

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The Nov. 22 memo reportedly came from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and was authenticated by a senior DHS official. However, it is unclear if President Donald Trump has signed off on the plan, or if it was a proposal from Nielsen.

Nielsen requested the assignment of “any available civilian law enforcement personnel … to the Southwest Border,” with an emphasis on CBP field offices in California, Texas and Arizona.

“The memo was sent to leaders of the departments of State, Labor, Energy, Transportation, Interior and Justice,” Politico reported.

Although many of the roles are not widely known to the public, each of the federal departments has its own law enforcement officers who have similar arrest powers as other federal agents.

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If the proposal goes into action, it could help alleviate problems with the current military deployment at the border. Due to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, troops who are currently near Mexico cannot perform the same law enforcement duties as Border Patrol agents.

“The administration seems to recognize that under Posse Comitatus … the military can’t do something enforcement-wise,” acknowledged Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney who worked in the Obama administration.

“So they’re saying, ‘Let’s grab as many law enforcement people and bring them to the border,'” he continued.

Although many federal law enforcement agents have equivalent arrest powers, experts said that the assignment of non-CBP personnel to the border would be fairly unprecedented.

“CBP specifically getting detailees from other agencies is very uncommon,” Fresco said. “And for this particular mission, becoming immigrant enforcement agents is something I’ve never heard of.”

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It may be uncommon before now, but so is having thousands of migrants marching to the border as part of a mass caravan. There is a strong law enforcement component to this situation, so using federally sworn and experienced officers as part of the answer makes sense.

As the tactics used by people who seem intent on breaking immigration laws and surging through borders change, America’s responses may also need to evolve.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.