The Defense Department is sending military lawyers to the southern border to act as prosecutors in order to speed up the numerous proceedings opened in recent weeks against immigrants who enter the country irregularly, a group of senators said today. In a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis, Democratic Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Patrick Leahy and Republican Joni Ernst demanded that the official “reverse” his decision, according to a statement from the three lawmakers.
“We are deeply concerned about the decision of the Department (of Defense) to send 21 military lawyers, active and reserve, to the southern border with the order to act as prosecutors in immigration cases,” reads the letter. Senators consider that these lawyers do not have the adequate training to participate in this type of cases and, in addition, they remember that the defense portfolio can not do without their services at a time when the work load accumulates in their own department.
This measure takes place within the framework of the controversy generated by the family separation that the US authorities are carrying out as a result of the current policy of “zero tolerance” towards immigrants who enter the country irregularly. The Executive alleges that, based on the law, minors must be separated from their parents while they face legal proceedings.
Previously, the Government presented by default civil charges against irregular immigrants, which allowed them to be released until the judges processed their asylum requests and not be separated from their children. Also, local press reported today that the Navy is working on a plan for the construction of temporary detention centers in which to receive thousands of undocumented minors.
This plan would contemplate the creation of “temporary and austere” camps in former military airports in the states of Florida and Alabama, according to Time magazine. On Thursday, the Pentagon acknowledged that, at the request of the Department of Health and Social Services, was studying the possibility of hosting some 20,000 unaccompanied immigrant children in various military installations.