Things That Matter

A New Report Shows That The US Military Can Now Open Fire On Moving Vehicles Along The Border

It is no secret that since he announced his candidacy for the presidency, now incumbent Donald J. Trump has made border security his priority. Data, of course, indicates that his administration sometimes reads the facts in a too creative way and tends to overestimate the amount of undocumented migrants that try to cross the US-Mexico border. 

Como es su costumbre, el presidente sometimes makes bold statements that seem to come out of nowhere and threaten relationships with Mexico. Many political pundits have judged this as mere posturing with no actual legal backing. But recent revelations have shed light on the fact that Trump might have had actual institutional backing for his outlandish claims.

Recently unveiled Pentagon documents reveal the extent of what US forces could do at US-Mexico ports of entry when judging there is a risk.

Credit: Instagram. @WyrdPhotography

Newsweek magazine got access to military documents that state that US forces have had much broader… liberties… than previously thought. These permissions by the higher command include shooting at moving vehicles across the border. This permission was granted in July, three days after Mark T. Esper was sworn in as Secretary of Defense. The reasoning behind this decision is the sporadic violent incidents involving migrants. However, these incidents have mostly happened in the Mexico-Guatemala border. 

The documents state that armed forces can shoot if there is “reasonable belief” that there is a risk to security.

This is where things get complicated, as the documents, according to Newsweek, don’t really specify what this “reasonable belief” entails or how servicemen and women make the call. Newsweek states: “The Defense Department guidelines indicate that military members can use lethal force when there is a “reasonable belief” that the vehicle is an imminent threat that will cause death or bodily harm to civilians in the immediate area. However, it is unclear what the Pentagon considers to be reasonable belief, raising concerns among legal experts and former government officials”. Seems like un cheque en blanco. And these are people’s lives at stake we are talking about. Critics and legal experts argue that this move is incredibly dangerous. 

But allowing to shoot at moving vehicles is dangerous, a clear and present threat to human lives.

Political vitriol and the tense situation experienced at the border are the perfect recipe for disaster, and a tragedy could happen. As Hina Shamsi, the director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, has said: “That permission is incredibly dangerous. Generally speaking, the trend for decades with respect to law enforcement agencies is a ban against officers shooting at a moving vehicle because it is likely to be ineffective and carries a high risk of lethal harm, including to bystanders”. 

So Donald Trump was not totally bluffing when he said they could shoot migrant caravans.

Credit: YouTube / The White House

Donald Trump turned many heads when he stated that the military would shoot weapons if migrants threw rocks. He said that they would consider any aggression with rocks or other objects “a firearm”. Trump was referencing previous outbursts of violence in which migrants confronted the Mexican authorities. At the time the claim seemed to be unsubstantiated in legal terms when it comes to rules of engagement, but the release of the Pentagon documents makes us think differently. This new revelation makes us increasingly uncomfortable when we remember that Trump wanted to protect the border with alligators and snakes, and wanted law enforcement agencies to shoot migrants on the legs, as per a The New York Times report

The document also reveals that the number of troops at the border could increase.

Just in July this year 2,000 additional troops were sent to the border to aid Border Patrol manage the flow of migrants, in particular leading to the approach of the Central American migrant caravan. There are currently 5,500 troops authorized to serve at the US-Mexico border, but the document implies that the number could increase if necessary. 

According to the leak, some servicemen have been allowed to enter into contact with migrants.

As per the documents obtained by Newsweek via a whistleblower, and later confirmed by two military sources, some special servicemen are exempt from the rule that states that they cannot enter into contact with migrants during their border mission. The report reads: “Army Lieutenant Colonel Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that on November 20, 2018, Trump authorized the Pentagon to “use military personnel to protect CBP personnel performing their Federal functions within property controlled by CBP at or adjacent to one or more CBP-designated [ports of entry].” This is a de facto, but bajita la mano, militarization of the border. 

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

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Trump Wanted To Torture Migrants By Deploying A Military ‘Heat Ray’ At The Border

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It’s no secret that President Trump envisions his far-from-completed border wall as essential in his plan to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Given previous reports of arming the border with snakes or alligators, it’s obvious that Trump envisions the wall as a punitive source of physical harm as much as a deterrent.

So it should come as little surprise that the president has wanted to deploy military-grade weapons to the border to actually ‘torture’ and ‘maim’ those who try and cross the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. However, a recent New York Times report goes into further detail on Trump’s ideas and they are, in fact, quite shocking.

The Trump Administration allegedly wanted to deploy a military-style weapon at the border to deter migrants.

Last week, it was reported by the New York Times that in 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had proposed using non-lethal weapon developed by the military to induce agonizing pain in migrants attempting to cross the border, with the intent to force them to turn back.

Described in overly simplistic terms by the Department of Defense as a “non-lethal, directed-energy, counter-personnel system,” the ADS is essentially a pain projector (the Times used the term “heat ray”) that subjects targets to the sensation of “heat felt from opening the door to a hot oven” all over their body. If deployed, the device would essentially make even approaching the U.S.-Mexico border a painful experience. 

So what exactly is the device that Trump and other CBP officials wanted to deploy?

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Although these ‘heat rays’ may sound like weapons for a made-for-TV villain, they’re actually very real. The U.S. Air Force began developing a weapon decades ago to give soldiers a non-lethal option for dealing with civilian mobs or or riots at overseas military bases.

The truck- or Humvee-mounted Active Denial System can affect multiple persons at range of up to one mile away. It silently emits a very high frequency microwave-like beam that can penetrate clothing and heats water molecules on the surface of the skin to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 C).

The resulting sensation, described as being akin to pressing a hot fluorescent light bulb to the skin, is so intense that within seconds affected persons are reflexively compelled to jump aside or run away. Supposedly the pain dissipates within seconds, though some accounts describe a lingering tingling that can last hours.

Although Trump floated the idea, according to DHS officials it was never considered as part of a border enforcement strategy.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Although Trump and CBP officials mentioned the possibility of deploying ADS, per the Times, the idea was flatly rejected by Kirsten Nielsen, then the secretary of Homeland Security. She allegedly told an aide after the meeting that she would not authorize the use of such a device, and it should never be brought up again in her presence.

However, the idea of using a ‘heat ray’ to torture migrants was at least entertained by some within the agency, likely emboldened by Trump’s increasingly harsh rhetoric against immigrants.

A former DHS officials is the one sounding the alarm on Trump’s alleged plan.

Speaking with The Daily Beast, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor claimed he’d sat in meetings with the president in which “[Trump] says, ‘We got to do this, this, this, and this,’ all of which are probably impossible, illegal, unethical.” 

Among the things Taylor claims the president suggested are efforts to gas, “maim,” and “pierce the flesh” of migrants attempting to cross into the United States without documentation. At one point, Taylor said, “[Trump] looks over me and he goes, ‘You fucking taking notes?”

Other ideas Trump reportedly floated — such as building a trench around the border and filling it with alligators or snakes — was also shot down, according to the Times.

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Hurricane Hanna Battered Texas But Did It Actually Knock Over Part Of Trump’s Border Wall?

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Hurricane Hanna Battered Texas But Did It Actually Knock Over Part Of Trump’s Border Wall?

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It’s official: hurricane season is in full swing and Texas has been hit hard by the first hurricane of the 2020 season to make landfall in the United States. And it potentially claimed a very high-profile victim: a segment of Trump’s beloved border wall.

On Sunday, a viral video started circulating on Twitter showing a segment of the wall tumbling over in strong winds. However, government officials have since claimed that the video is old news and that Hanna didn’t actually bring down any segment of border wall.

A video that went viral on Twitter on Sunday shows a section of the border wall toppling to the ground amid fierce wind and rain.

As Hurricane Hanna made landfall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ravaging towns and cities in its path – a viral video started to make its rounds on Twitter. The video showed a segment of the border wall falling over in what appeared to be very strong winds, like something you’d find in a hurricane.

The video posted to Twitter by journalist Yadith Valdez on Sunday shows construction workers standing by and watching as fierce gusts knock the steel structure to the ground.

The video served as yet another reminder that Trump’s border wall is useless and detrimental to the regions and people it’s targeting. Some pointed out that just last week, Trump was bragging about his vanity project, calling it ‘the most powerful and comprehensive border wall structure’ in the world.’

Well if this viral video is any proof, that’s simply not true.

However, some have called the validity of the footage into question, noting that it’s unclear when and where it was recorded.

Mexican news outlet Debate claimed in an article that the video was filmed at a section of wall dividing Texas from Ciudad Camargo in the state of Tamaulipas. However, Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff refuted that report in a tweet, saying that Customs and Border Patrol officials told him the video was not recorded in the Rio Grande Valley. 

‘Unclear where it was filmed, but based on desert terrain, daytime recording and style of bollards, I’m guessing these are images of a monsoon out west, prob Arizona,’ Miroff wrote.

And for their part, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement: “The video circulating on social media appears to be from June 2020 when high winds caused several border wall panels that were pending additional anchoring to fall over at a construction site near Deming, New Mexico.”

The clip became the target of widespread ridicule as critics likened the collapse to President Trump’s re-election campaign.

Credit: DAEMMRICH PHOTOGRAPHY / Getty Images

While the debate of where and when the video was recorded will continue to linger on, it is obvious that part of Trump’s expensive border wall between the United States and Mexico was toppled by strong winds at some point and people couldn’t help but make jokes about the construction that was a big part of the president’s campaign four years ago, which he vowed to make Mexico pay for.

Regardless of questions over the origin of the video, Trump critics had a field day with jokes about the collapse. Best-selling author Rick Wilson tweeted: ‘I have a Trump wall joke but it blows.’ 

Another man tweeted in response to Wilson: ‘I have a trump wall joke but I know it will fall flat.’ 

Yet another critic added: ‘I hope the Trump Wall is still under warranty. I’d hate to see Mexico have to pay for it a second time.’

Meanwhile, Hurricane Hanna inflicted major damage across Texas and northern Mexico.

Although many were talking about Hanna’s potential effect on the border wall, many cities and towns in the region were badly hit by the storm. She first made landfall near South Padre Island, Texas as a Category 1 hurricane but has since been downgraded to a tropical depression.

The storm dumped more than 12 inches of rain along the US-Mexico border as it tore through the area with winds of up to 50 miles per hour.  

The section of Texas that was hardest hit is also dealing with a severe outbreak of Covid-19, complicating efforts by officials to respond to the disaster.

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