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Obama announces decision to send 1200 troops to the border

In the run-up to the November elections, the White House seems to be succumbing to political pressure to increase immigration enforcement, border security and deportations, rather than fix the broken immigration system.

So it was no surprise to hear the President’s decision to send 1200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border between the Unites States and Mexico. The White House also called for an additional $500 million to fund “increased agents, investigators, and prosecutors, as part of a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money.” The move is being compared to a “scaled down version” of President Bush’s decision to send 6,000 troops to the border from 2006 to 2008. Common to both cases, the idea is that rather than enforce immigration law, the additional troops take over support issues so that more U.S. Border Patrol agents are free to handle law enforcement. According to the Associated Press, the troops will work on-

…intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, analysis and training, and support efforts to block drug trafficking. They will temporarily supplement border patrol agents until Customs and Border Protection can recruit and train additional officers and agents to serve on the border.

Since the White House announcement hit the headlines yesterday, it has received criticism from both sides of the debate. Those in favor of harsher enforcement have deemed it “insufficient”. Republicans such as John McCain and Sen. Russell Pearce, author of the controversial Arizona bill SB1070, have critiqued it saying that 1200 troops without the authority to enforce the law will do little to secure the borders. Advocates of immigration reform have denounced the President’s decision as political pandering that simply pays lip service to the issue without attempting to solve it. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum said the move is a waste of resources-

Deploying additional National Guard without a clear strategy to end arms or drug smuggling is a response to tired talking points. Without true immigration reform, the political theater will continue and billions will continue to be wasted on misguided border security measures.

Organizations and elected officials representing border communities from San Diego to Brownsville have drafted a letter to the Obama Administration and federal legislators strongly opposing the decision to send the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border. These communities feel that the decision is  motivated solely by political motives, rather than based on the needs of those at the border. The letter reads-

“While DC politicians like to paint the border as a war zone, the reality is that it is one of the safest areas of the country. Crime is down. Even immigration flows are down. The only emergency here is a political one,” said Pedro Rios, with the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, one of the signatories of the letter. However, the militarization of the border is not without consequences for the communities who live there. Economies are choked by inefficient border crossings, civil rights are pushed aside, and quality of life is seriously diminished. It is time to rethink our border policy.  Increasing the quantity of armed agents and soldiers on our southern border does not enhance our national security, but in fact undermines it by mis-allocating resources. Humane border policies would focus quality law enforcement resources on real threats in the region, while protecting the rights and well-being of border residents.

On the one hand President Obama has repeatedly mentioned the need for bipartisan immigration reform that focuses on keeping families together through a humane, but workable solution, and his criticism of Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law was clear on that front. On the other hand, all actions that have been taken by the Obama administration around immigration have involved increased enforcement including the expansion of 287g and the Secure Communities programs, the highest investment on border security to date, and an all time record in detention and deportations.

Today, the Senate is about to vote on amendments to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, which if passed, will increase immigration detention, enforcement and border security. Amongst these are amendments introduced by Sen. John McCain  and Sen. Jon Kyl which call for the deployment of an additional 6,000 troops and additional funding for Operation Streamline at the border. In the wake of the recent White House announcement, it is imperative that we urge the Senate not to increase detention and border enforcement, and instead, focus on restoring fairness and justice to the immigration system. Call your Senator today before it’s too late.

Photo courtesy of LA Times.

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One Response to “Obama announces decision to send 1200 troops to the border”

    Dan Bostic says:

    Well I can see both sides of the story living here in Southern Arizona and unless you live here and understand the geography and the background it’s easy to make an uninformed judgement.

    What makes the situation unique is that Arizona has over 350 miles of border with Mexico, there are three main border crossings that might be considered “urban”, San Luis, Nogales and Douglas and none of them are larger than 25,000 people. They have little in common with San Diego or Brownsville other than the fact that they are on the border. Other key elements, the vast majority of the border in Arizona is desert scrubland but it’s crisscrossed with a nice intermingling of state and local roads in the rural ranching area of SE Arizona, which makes it easy to cross over, meet a designated truck or vehicle in the state and then be off to Tucson or Phoenix within two to three hours.

    Other states don’t offer those “benefits” as Texas has it’s river (drugs are harder to get across the water), California’s traffic is mostly confined to its one urban crossing which has more enforcement, and New Mexico lacks the logistics for distribution of people and drugs. That is why they are crossing in Arizona, it’s developed enough to exploit and rural enough to get lost in. If the federal reservists help take the load off of the Border Patrol folks to apprehend more illegals, more power to them.

    As for the Arizona Law itself, it’s heinous and hopefully unlikely to be enforceable but the issue it attempts to address is very real to people in the state and to decry the fact that the President is acting on behalf of the request by Congresswoman Giffords (who made the request because it is her district that is the most affected) to do something ignores the fact that there is a problem and until legislation is passed at the national level, backed by the funding to make that happen, it will continue to be a problem.

    The problem is also quite real that the path to citizenship is convoluted as well, based on what I have read, it’s taking about three years for someone to complete the process as it stands due to the backlog of applicants and the lack of resources to process those requests.