Trump Seeks To Militarize Border Despite 47-Year-Low In Unlawful Crossings

President Trump visited the Border Wall prototypes in San Diego February 13, 2018.(U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Photographer: Jetta Disco/Flickr)

Unlawful crossings at the U.S. border with Mexico were last this low in 1971.

President Donald Trump has stepped up his rhetoric surrounding unlawful border crossings at the U.S. southern border with Mexico, tweeting on the issue repeatedly over the past several days.

On Tuesday, Trump called for militarizing the border until such a time that his long-promised wall is completed.

But as the president reportedly investigates potential options for troop deployment with Defense Secretary James Mattis, unlawful border crossings are at a 47-year low.

Mr. Trump's call to militarize the border comes as illegal border crossings last year were at the lowest levels since 1971, reports CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

"There's nothing that I see right now happening on the U.S.-Mexico border that would constitute an insurrection," said retired Adm. James Winnefeld, who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Obama. He warned against using the U.S. military.

"If the president tried to use military forces in an inappropriate way… he would be violating federal law," Winnefeld said.

In his Tuesday remarks, the president said until the wall is finished and "proper security" is established, "we're going to be guarding our border with the military".

It is unclear precisely how Trump envisions a militarized border to function, but U.S. troops stationed there would not have the authority to detain immigrants.

In 2010, President Obama sent 1,200 National Guard members to help battle drug smuggling and illegal immigration, and in 2006 President Bush sent 6,000 Guard members to assist the border patrol. In both deployments, soldiers had no authority to detain immigrants because federal law prohibits using active duty troops to conduct law enforcement activities in the United States, unless authorized by Congress.