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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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