A group of President Donald Trump’s top national-security advisers discussed whether the military could be used to build and run “tent city” detention camps for migrants, NBC News reported on Friday, citing three US officials familiar with the conversations.
The discussions have even reportedly revolved around whether such a move would be legal because the Posse Comitatus Act bars the government from using federal troops to enforce domestic laws.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan brushed off a question about the possibility on Friday when reporters asked whether the military will be involved in detaining migrants.
“To your detainee question, we haven’t received any details on that. But I expect an increase of support will occur,” he said.
Shanahan also said the Pentagon has not received any formal requests for assistance but that “it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ll provide more support to the border.” He did not clarify what type of support was expected.
The discussions are the latest in a series of legally dubious efforts the Trump administration has reportedly floated in recent weeks, as the number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border has soared.
In March, more than 103,000 migrants were apprehended at the border, the highest number in 12 years. The crossings have overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, enraged Trump, and triggered a purge of his top Homeland Security officials this week.
Trump reportedly pressured former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to start separating migrant families again, in violation of a federal court order. He also reportedly urged Border Patrol agents to block migrants from seeking asylum, which would violate US law.
CNN reported on Friday that Trump had even pressured then Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to block migrants at the border, telling McAleenan he would pardon him if he were jailed. McAleenan is now the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
DHS denied in a statement that Trump had urged the acting secretary to break the law.
“At no time has the president indicated, asked, directed or pressured the acting secretary to do anything illegal,” the statement said. “Nor would the acting secretary take actions that are not in accordance with our responsibility to enforce the law.”