NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sending The Military To Guard U.S. Borders

June 23, 1999

Should military troops be deployed along U.S. borders to halt illegal immigrants or protect against drugs being smuggled in? The House of Representatives thinks so. By a vote of 242 to 181, it passed a measure this month to allow the military a wider role in patrolling the border.

  • Since 1878, it has been illegal to use the U.S. military to enforce civil law -- including border controls.
  • While the military services are already involved along the Mexican border in aspects of the war against drug smuggling, the Pentagon is basically opposed to enlarging its role there.
  • With the trend being to use the military increasingly for duties within the U.S., such as anti-terrorism and drug interdiction, experts point out that training is vastly different if the aim is to defeat an enemy in war or perform constabulary functions aimed at keeping civil peace.
  • Wars require force and aggressive action, keeping the peace requires restraint.

Many countries avoid using the military for border control by maintaining large, separate, paramilitary border forces. The armies of Germany and Turkey are 10 times and four times larger, respectively, than their border patrol forces. The U.S. Army is 50 times larger than our border patrols.

Source: Brian Mitchell, "Who's Watching Our Borders?" Investor's Business Daily, June 23, 1999.


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