Deployment of National Guard Troops to Southwest Border
(19 August 2010)
The White House has announced the deployment of approximately 1200 National Guard troops to the southwest border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. This follows the previous program Operation Jump Start, in which 6000 National Guard troops were deployed to the border with Mexico, largely to aid in border fence construction, along with building service roads and implementing surveillance, at a cost of US$1.4 billion. This most recent mission comes at a time when crossings by undocumented migrants are at historical low-points in many sectors of the border, due largely to a struggling economy and lack of employment in the U.S. for migrant workers.
Estimates state that California will receive 224 troops, New Mexico 72, Arizona 524, and Texas 250, with 130 additional troops at a national liaison office, though many governors of these border states have argued that the numbers are not significant enough. The National Guards’ mission this time is concerned with intelligence surveillance and counter-narcotic enforcement, rather than fence construction as done previously. Troops typically do not apprehend those making incursions in to the U.S., but instead report to federal authorities, most notably Customs and Border Patrol, including the 20 000 U.S. Border Patrol agents now stationed along the United States’ borders. Critiques of the previous program argued that the deployment of National Guard troops was largely symbolic, mostly leading to an increased reliance on coyotes (smugglers) by undocumented crossers to negotiate the added enforcement presence. Other concerns focused upon the lack of training for National Guard troops in dealing with migration related issues.
Source: ‘State's Guard troops headed to border duty will have focused mission’, Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times, 18 August 2010; ‘524 Guard soldiers headed to Arizona-Mexico border’, Paul Davenport and Bob Christie, Associated Press, 28 June 2010; ‘National Guard Border Troops Moving On’, Immigration Policy Center Press Release, 30 June 2008.