National Guard troops will mostly be providing aerial support and helping with surveillance and infrastructure projects at the border, the Pentagon said Monday.
President Donald Trump's deployed National Guard troops have already begun arriving at the US-Mexico border — and they'll mostly be providing aerial support and helping with surveillance and infrastructure projects, the Pentagon said Monday.
But the troops are explicitly barred from helping arrest or deport immigrants, as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limits the military's ability to enforce civilian law without authorization.
The troops are set to use drones and light-, medium-, and heavy-lift helicopters during their deployment, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told The Washington Post in a statement. They'll also assist with surveillance systems such as cameras and blimps.
Beyond that, the troops will largely be doing maintenance work on roads and facilities, as well as clearing vegetation, Davis said. He did not clarify whether those infrastructure tasks would include border wall construction.
The Department of Defense confirmed in a statement last week that the troops won't conduct law-enforcement activities or interact with migrants or detainees without approval from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Davis also said the troops won't be conducting armed patrols, and will only carry weapons in limited circumstances, depending on their mission.
"National Guard personnel will only be armed for their own self-protection to the extent required by the circumstances of the mission they are performing," he said.
Trump said last Thursday he hoped the states' governors would authorize "anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000." Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have so far committed nearly 1,600 members altogether.
California was the last border state to join, agreeing on Wednesday to send 400 troops. Its Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has been a vehement critic of Trump and his anti-immigration agenda, and clarified that not all of the troops will be going directly to the border.
Brown said troops will instead focus on fighting transnational drug crime, human trafficking, and firearms smuggling — not deporting immigrants.
It's also unclear what the deployments will cost and how long they'll last, though Mattis has already authorized a payment that would cover the cost of up to 4,000 National Guard members through September 30.
Trump's demand to have the National Guard deployed along the border came after a days-long tirade against a "caravan" of hundreds of central American migrants traveling through Mexico. Some of those migrants intended to seek asylum in the United States or enter illegally.
Though the caravan has mostly dispersed, organizers said Monday that roughly 200 migrants still intend to claim asylum in the US.