Obama to send 1,200 additional National Guard troops to the border (Los Angeles Times)

The troops will target the trafficking of people, money, drugs and weapons, but won’t make arrests or otherwise intervene directly, officials say.

BY KEN DILANIAN , Tribune Washington Bureau
May 26, 2010

Reporting from Washington — President Obama will send up to 1,200 additional National Guard troops — and request $500 million in additional funds — to support law enforcement efforts along the Southwest border, the White House said Tuesday.

The move was widely seen as offering the president political cover for his pursuit of immigration reform.

The National Guard will target the trafficking of people, money, drugs and weapons, national security advisor James L. Jones and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), noting that more than 300 troops were already on the ground. The troops won’t make arrests or otherwise intervene directly, according to an administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The White House said the money would allow the U.S. Border Patrol to zero in on more smuggling routes, and it would fund more prosecutions in overstretched federal courts along the border.

“This is the latest step in an ongoing effort to ensure the federal government fulfills its responsibility to secure the Southwest border,” the official said.

The move comes a month after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate committee that the U.S.-Mexico border “is as secure as it has ever been” and pointed out that crime rates on the U.S. side had declined, despite a spate of drug-related violence on the Mexico side.

Republicans criticized her remarks, and have been demanding that the administration step up efforts to tackle illegal immigration and border violence.

Obama’s announcement also comes as illegal immigration is believed to be at its lowest levels in years. Apprehension rates, considered the best available indicator of illegal border crossings, have steadily declined over the last decade. The Border Patrol arrested 556,000 people last year, down from a high of 1.6 million in 2000.

But Republicans have been hammering Obama on the issue. In a letter to the president last week, Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans, called for sending at least 6,000 National Guard troops to the border.

A Gallup poll released May 5 showed that two-thirds of Americans wanted the federal government to do a better job of securing the border. Concerns about border security helped drive the passage of the recent Arizona law empowering local police to help identify, arrest and deport illegal immigrants.

Obama argues that the answer to concerns about immigration rests in a new law that combines tough enforcement with a path to legalization for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. President George W. Bush tried and failed to pass such a measure in 2007, and many observers think there is even less chance of it succeeding this year, with midterm elections approaching.

The deployment of additional National Guard troops undermines the Republican assertion that the White House is lax about strengthening the border, said a second Obama administration official, not authorized to speak on the record.

“They’re running out of excuses,” the official said. “For those who are making the case that we have to be more vigorous about enforcing the law, it does call the question.”

At a news conference in Phoenix, Arizona Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard, a Democrat who is running for governor, called the border initiative “an important commitment of national attention to the real problem that we are facing here in Arizona and throughout the Southwest, and that is the violent crime fomented by the criminal drug cartels.”

The announcement from the White House came after Obama lunched at the Capitol with Senate Republicans, urging them to come on board an immigration bill without mentioning his new enforcement plan. Republicans said Obama’s announcement was a good step, but an insufficient one.

“It’s simply not enough. We need 6,000,” McCain said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “The situation on the border [has] greatly deteriorated during the last 18 months.”

In 2006, President Bush sent 6,000 National Guard members to Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Their presence was meant to step up security while the Border Patrol expanded its ranks. They stayed from June 2006 until July 2008.

Napolitano, then Arizona governor, was among those who called for sending the Guard in 2006. The Border Patrol more than doubled in the last eight years, and now stands at 20,000.

However, there is no evidence that National Guard deployment impeded illegal immigrants, said Wayne Cornelius, director emeritus of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego.

In Cornelius’ 2007 survey of potential immigrants, the National Guard’s presence on the border was cited as a major concern by just 5% of interviewees — “the same proportion who were concerned about being robbed en route to the U.S. by Mexican police,” he said. “That’s even more revealing because a majority of our interviewees believed, incorrectly, that the National Guard troops were armed and authorized to shoot.”

Obama’s decision, Cornelius said, “looks very much like an election-year ploy.”

And poor strategy, said Janet Murguía, president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Latino civil rights organization in the United States. “Taking this step without any concurrent announcement on next steps or even a timeline for a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system is both inadequate and deeply disappointing,” she said.

Some who favor tough enforcement also questioned Obama’s motives. In Arizona, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said the president’s move appeared to be “little more than political posturing.”

“It’s welcome on the other hand, because we’ve been crying for help for years,” he said. “Something is better than nothing.”

He criticized the Pentagon’s long-standing policy that precludes troops from directly policing the border, instead relegating them to support roles.

“You either secure our borders or you don’t,” he said.

Thad Bingel, who was chief of staff of U.S. Customs and Border Protection during the Bush administration, said it would be unwise to have Guard troops patrolling the border with rifles at the ready.

“What we discovered … is that the Guard was a helpful stopgap, but it’s not a long-term solution; it doesn’t solve all your problems,” he said.

kdilanian@tribune.com

Staff writers Anna Gorman in Phoenix, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Peter Nicholas, Janet Hook and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.

View the article »

Analysts Say National Guard Does Little To Deter Illegal Immigrants (KPBS)

BY AMY ISACKSON   MAY 26, 2010

Analysts say President Barack Obama’s plan to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border will have minimal impact on border security. The guardsmen are part of Obama’s $500-million proposal to make the border safer.

The National Guard troops would work as extra eyes and ears for the Border Patrol, but would not be allowed to make arrests.

In 2006, President Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border, including to San Diego.

Shortly after, Wayne Cornelius, who studies migration at UCSD, interviewed about 1,000 people in Mexico who were considering crossing to the United States illegally.

“The National Guard presence on the border was a major source of concern for just 5 percent of our interviewees. And it’s even more revealing because the majority believed, incorrectly, that the National Guard in 2006 were armed and, presumably, authorized to shoot,” said Cornelius.

Cornelius and a bipartisan homeland security analyst in Washington say sending the National Guard may buy political protection for the president and some Democratic congressman.

View the article »

Political chameleon / Tough election has McCain changing colors (San Diego Union-Tribune)

” … Being in a border city, this editorial page has never been enamored of the idea that the immigration problem can be fixed by building a wall or putting up a fence, and calling it a day. In fact, as has been pointed out by longtime border researcher Wayne Cornelius, formerly of UC San Diego, building walls often has the effect of sealing off immigrant communities and preventing the kind of cross-border migration that allows immigrants to go home. …”

Read full article »

David FitzGerald on 60 Minutes

CCIS Associate Director David FitzGerald is featured in several CBS 60 Minutes “web extra” interviews. The segments were shot for a report on the All-American Canal.


Professor David FitzGerald, Associate Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego briefs “60 Minutes” Correspondent Scott Pelley on illegal
immigration from Mexico.

Illegal Immigration: The Hard Facts

Militarizing the Border

Border Control

Taking a stand: Residents raise their voice in favor of immigration reform (Brownsville Herald)

” … But if you successfully frame any policy as part of national security, there will be a greater chance of passing it, said John Skrentny, a sociology professor and director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California at San Diego.

Such was the case in the late 1950s with the passing of the National Defense Education Act, Skrentny said. For years, people believed the school funding was a local issue and that the federal government should not get involved, even though campuses were struggling, the professor said. That changed when the Soviet Union launched its first satellite ahead of the United States spurring the country to finally pass the act. … ”

Read full article »

Arrested on Entry: Operation Streamline and the Prosecution of Immigration Crimes (Migration Policy Institute)

” … Political scientist Wayne Cornelius has found that notwithstanding increased border enforcement measures, eventual crossing success rates have remained consistently high (in the 97 percent range from 2005 to 2007), even for unauthorized immigrants who are apprehended by the Border Patrol. However, border enforcement strategies have increased smuggler fees and have pushed migrants to more remote and dangerous crossing routes. … ”

Read full article »

Sound and Fury (Texas Tribune)

” … Just as in 2006, some Democrats are clamoring for immigration reforms, including easing pathways to citizenship, while Republicans are insisting that more security on the border must come first. Policy experts, meanwhile, say the outcome for immigration changes this year will likely be the same as back then: nothing. “I don’t see productive discussions on immigration this year,” said John Skrentny, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego. … ”

Read full article »

The Fiscal Bottom Line on Immigration Reform (Immigration Policy Center)

” … A research team led by Wayne Cornelius, Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego, has found that while unauthorized migrants from Mexico may be caught on their first attempt at crossing the border, they have an almost 100 percent chance of eventual success—particularly if they enlist the services of a coyote, or people smuggler. Moreover, as border enforcement is tightened between ports of entry along the southwest border, more migrants are being smuggled through ports of entry (sealed in a compartment within a vehicle, or as a passenger with false or borrowed documents).

Research by Cornelius and his team have also found that undocumented migration from Mexico has diminished mainly because there are fewer jobs available in the United States. …”

Read the full article »