Trump looking to put troops near Canadian border amid coronavirus fears

American government officials inside Donald Trump’s White House are actively discussing putting troops near the Canadian borders in light of the coronavirus pandemic, sources tell Global News. 

Few people cross from Canada into the United States at an unofficial point each year but the goal of the policy would be to help border guards detect irregular crossers, the sources said. 

While the White House is pushing for this, no decision has been made. It’s not clear if Canadian officials have been officially briefed but back channel conversations are ongoing. 

Global News has asked the White House to comment on this story but has not received a response.

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Any militarization on or near the Canadian border would be a stark departure from traditional relations between the two countries as the Canadian-US border has traditionally been recognized as one of the longest non-militarized borders in the world. 

The proposal has raised diplomatic concerns on both sides of the border.

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While the move would be temporary — lasting only as long as the coronavirus pandemic — some in Washington are concerned about Canadian reaction and the precedent set by sending troops to their northern and southern borders, sources told Global News.  

If the plans come to fruition, Global News has learned troops would be stationed about 30 kilometres from the border between official points of entry and would use sensor technology to detect irregular crossers before passing on the information to border patrol agents.

Under the proposed scenario, the troops would not have the authority to arrest or detain anyone, sources say. Instead, border patrol agents would be sent to intercept the irregular crossers. 

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United States law prohibits its military from acting as domestic law enforcement, instead only allowing troops to serve in a support role within its own borders. 

Sources said the plan would likely involve fewer than 1,000 military personnel. 

READ MORE: Trump administration under pressure to free migrants as coronavirus spreads

Nearly 20,000 people crossed into Canada from the US in 2018, according to official government statistics. US Border Patrol statistics show they apprehended 4,316 people crossing from Canada to the United States in 2018. 

The Trump administration policy stems from fears any irregular crossers may be carrying COVID-19. 

As of March 25, there are currently more than 63,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States.

At the same time in Canada, there are 1,959. 

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