Posse Comitatus and the Mexican border

It seems every time one looks at a newspaper from Arizona, there is another story about people with guns that look and act suspiciously like Mexican drug cartel goons shooting up other people.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu claimed that the western portion of his county had essentially been taken over by the drug cartel. This is the area where one his deputies was shot by a cartel gunman, and where 2 gunshot victims were found.

On  June 15 the Nogales International reported camouflaged gunmen shot a border crosser near Rio Rico.

There are obvious two very different problems going on along the border. The first problem is a lot of people crossing to get work or join their families. These folks are not a threat to the health, safety and welfare of Arizonans.

The second problem involved guys armed with automatic weapons smuggling drugs and shooting up other people, including killing worker migrants.

You’d think by now with more and more of the countryside being taken over by the cartel and the violence escalating, the United States government would get really serious and saturate the border zone with Border Patrol so no one crosses.

Not happening.

One can understand the frustration evident in SB 1070…but that nasty piece of legislation doesn’t address the real problem…the cartelistas and their growing reign of terror along the border.

If these guys with their automatic weapons were al Queda, you’d bet there would be a serious response. I don’t get the distinction. A terrorist is a terrorist, and the cartelistas are terrorists. But not officially.

For those who want a military solution, the problem is the Posse Comitatus Act.

The Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385) passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction, with the intention (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) of substantially limiting the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement. The Act prohibits most members of the federal uniformed services (today the Army, Navy, Air Force, and State National Guard forces when such are called into federal service) from exercising nominally state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain “law and order” on non-federal property (states and their counties and municipal divisions) within the United States.
The statute generally prohibits federal military personnel and units of the National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Coast Guard is exempt from the Act.

The first question to ask, is the invasion of the borderlands by cartel terrorists purely a law enforcement problem, or is it something more?

Dealing with the problem from a purely law enforcement angle is not working here. The law enforcement approach is basically chase around trying to catch the bad guys after they violate the law.

What is badly needed is a preventative strategy that secures the border from the armed gunmen getting into the US in the first place. That requires a military-type strategy….concentrating resources along the border.

However, because of Possee Comitatus, the National Guard cannot be used in anything except a support role.

Maybe one solution is to deputize all the National Guard troops as county sheriff deputies.

Another obvious solution is to concentrate the existing Border Patrol resources at the border and not all over hell and gone like they are now.

The demands of securing the border at the border are coming from everywhere now.

Is anybody in Washington listening?


About Hugh Holub

Attorney and writer.
This entry was posted in border issues, border patrol, border patrol tucson sector, border security, immigration law reform. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s