by Regina Cantu @ Matt.org
Nearly one year ago, under pressure from congressional Republicans and border state governors to do more to curtail unauthorized immigration, Obama authorized the use of troops to assist the Border Patrol with immigration enforcement operations in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
So far, more than 524 troops have been active in Arizona, 250 in Texas, 224 in California and 72 in New Mexico, officials have said. More than 100 additional troops from the border states serve in command and control positions. Funding for the border security mission approved by Congress expires this month, but frustrated lawmakers are demanding further action to stop the spread of violence and drug trafficking that has spilled across the border into their states.
In a letter to Obama last month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer urged the administration to extend the Guard deployment, saying she believes it has had a significant impact on reducing smuggling activity and border violence.
“The support the Arizona National Guard has provided has been very valuable to law enforcement efforts in Arizona,” Brewer said. “Further, I believe evidence is clear that the Arizona National Guard has approached the mission with cost effectiveness in mind.”
Brewer said the guard has been involved in approximately 19,000 surveillance operations, 10,000 apprehensions of illegal migrants and 235 seizures of drug shipments, including over 18 tons of marijuana. Other border state lawmakers have been more emotional in their appeal.
“If you’ll indulge me, we think we have another crisis on the border,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at a hearing this week. “I want to know about whether you’re going to send the Guard to the border or not.”
When she tried to explain other DHS improvements along the border, McCain cut her off.
“People’s homes are being violated, and their families can’t take kids to the bus stop,” the senator fumed. “And you are very familiar with the issue, because you yourself asked for the Guard to go to the border back in 2006.”
While the guardsmen cannot directly engage in law enforcement on U.S. soil, they have served as criminal analysts and on so-called entry identification teams, which help spot illegal border crossers.
Speaking at the White House on Wednesday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Obama said the U.S. is committed to standing with Mexico against the drug cartels.
“As your partner, we’ll give you the support you need to prevail,” he said, adding that through increased law enforcement on the U.S. side of the border, “we’re putting unprecedented pressure on those who traffic in drugs, guns and people.“