Pete Dominick, host of “Politics of the United States” on XM Radio, interviewed David FitzGerald on President Obama’s deployment of National Guard troops to the Southwest border.
San Diego among areas to get troops
BY LESLIE BERESTEIN MAY 26, 2010
With national debate raging over illegal immigration and drug smuggling, the Obama administration is planning the deployment of National Guard troops to the border in San Diego County and elsewhere.
An administration official said Tuesday that the deployment of up to 1,200 Guard troops is part of a plan that will include a request by President Barack Obama for $500 million for enhanced border protection and law enforcement.
The troops will work in a support role, providing assistance to border agents with surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence analysis and counternarcotics operations while U.S. Customs and Border Protection recruits and trains additional staff members.
That was essentially the role of about 6,000 National Guard troops deployed by the Bush administration in May 2006, about 550 of whom assisted the Border Patrol in the San Diego sector with surveillance, border-fence projects and other non-law-enforcement support. The two-year program, dubbed Operation Jumpstart, also was intended to strengthen border security while additional agents were hired.
“They helped free up the agents, so the agents could focus their efforts on securing the border,” said agent Mark Endicott, a spokesman for the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector.
Endicott had no details as to when Guard troops might arrive in the region or how many. Maj. Thomas Keegan, director of public affairs for the California National Guard, said state troops had not yet been asked to step forward.
“From the Guard’s position we stand ready, willing and able to accomplish whatever mission the president and the governor deem necessary,” Keegan said, adding that discussions with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are under way.
The California Guard soldiers could be mobilized by order of the president, or they could be called up by the governor using federal funds.
The news from the Obama administration was cheered by some lawmakers who had been calling for stronger border protection. But it is also being met with criticism similar to that leveled against the Bush administration’s Guard deployment, including from some border-enforcement advocates.
Much like in 2006, when hundreds of thousands participated in rallies for reform, immigration has become a hot-button election-year issue, especially since a strict anti-illegal-immigration law in Arizona reinvigorated the debate. As happened with Operation Jumpstart, critics are dismissing the idea of sending troops to the border as political window dressing.
“This looks very much like an election-year ploy,” said Wayne Cornelius, co-director of the Center of Expertise on Migration and Health at the University of California San Diego. He said it’s hard to believe that the president and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano “really expect deployment of the National Guard to deter would-be illegal entrants.”
William Gheen, president of the immigration-restriction group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, blasted the idea as “woefully inadequate.”
“I feel like a starving man that’s been handed a cracker,” Gheen said in an e-mailed statement, criticizing the relatively small number of troops.
Border Patrol agent Shawn Moran, a spokesman for Local 1613 of the National Border Patrol Council in San Diego, said that while the last Guard deployment helped to build and fix infrastructure, it did little to free more agents for enforcement duties.
“Any impact in terms of manpower is going to be minimal,” he said. “It is just all smoke and mirrors, as usual.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, whose congressman father was a proponent of border enforcement, issued a statement in support of the move.
Changes that go beyond border enforcement are sorely needed, said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of the Latino advocacy organization National Council of La Raza.
“We are on a collision course of enforcement-only policies, and as experience shows, this will not solve the problem,” Murguía said.
Obama has said he supports overhauling the nation’s immigration system, but it is unlikely that Congress will tackle such legislation this year.
In Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer took some of the credit for the deployment, saying in a statement that her signing last month of a state law that empowers local police to check for immigration status “clearly ignited the talk of action in Washington for the people of Arizona and other border states.”
The law has found support among a majority of Americans in polls by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and other groups.
Staff writer Gretel C. Kovach and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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.
Staff writers Anna Gorman in Phoenix, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Peter Nicholas, Janet Hook and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
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.
” … 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. …”
An op-ed by Emily Puhl, a current participant in the Mexican Migration Field Research Program (MMFRP), was published in the Des Moines Register. The op-ed cites MMFRP data to argue that increased border enforcement has not been successful in keeping undocumented immigrants from entering the United States.
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
” … 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. … ”
” … 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. … ”
CCIS Associate Director David FitzGerald was consulted for a recent Slate Explainer column about Mexican immigration laws.