Originally Published: April 11, 2018 6:05 a.m.
The United States is deploying members of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border at President Donald Trump’s request. The deployment was underway Tuesday with a gradual ramp-up of troops under orders to help curb illegal immigration.
Texas, New Mexico and Arizona governors are sending or have pledged to send troops; California and Gov. Jerry Brown have yet to commit.
Trump administration officials have said deploying troops is to combat rising numbers of people being caught at the southern border, the Associated Press reported. The increase in border-crossings may be in line with seasonal trends, but Trump’s orders are also likely a reaction to stalled congressional funding for a fortified border wall.
Consider also that while presidents Bush and Obama also sent National Guard troops to the border, a few sources show each deployed more than Trump (Vox Media) and some show fewer (USA Today).
Regardless of all that, living in Arizona, we regularly see the effects of people in the country illegally. These range from drug arrests mostly along the Interstate 17 corridor to the occasional traffic stop of a cargo vehicle containing a dozen or more undocumented immigrants, who paid what are called “coyotes” to take them into the U.S.
Reports state Trump has ordered as many as 4,000 National Guard personnel – paid for by the Pentagon’s budget – to be sent to the border through the end of September.
First, for the troops, we say the more the merrier. Just the sheer numbers might help stem some of the immigration crisis.
Mexico’s foreign relations secretary said Tuesday his government is evaluating its cooperation with the United States. That is key, since – if done incorrectly – this could create a far more volatile environment.
If Mexico responded by putting troops on its side of the border, according to Dov S. Zakheim, the Pentagon’s top financial officer during President George W. Bush’s first term, the situation could deteriorate quickly. “All it takes is one mistake,” he said. “Somebody fires. And then what?”
Thankfully, according to the White House, generally the troops will not be armed. Many will be there to observe and report, and others will help process migrants after Border Patrol agents apprehend them, as they did under Obama.
National Guard troops aren’t sent to the border to fight off immigrants – that would be illegal. The federal government has assured that the mobilization order states “arming will be limited to circumstances that might require self-defense.”
The good news is border apprehensions are well below their historical trends during the terms of former presidents Bush and Obama.
Along with the troops, we like the idea of using advanced drone technology and increasing the ability for the assigned Border Patrol units to respond quickly when there is a breach or a threat.
It is well past time for us to make the hard decision and protect our borders, using whatever we have that works. Let’s not be like so many countries around the world that allow this sort of exodus without serious border protection.