By Lisa Johnson
La Prensa de San Antonio
Beginning Aug 1, 2010, 250 National Guardsmen will deploy to the Southwest border, as part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Defense (DOD), in efforts to combat transnational criminal organizations that smuggle weapons, cash and people across the Southwest border.
“Over the past year and a half, this administration has pursued a new border security strategy with an unprecedented sense of urgency; making historic investments in personnel, technology and infrastructure,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.
In May, President Obama authorized the deployment of up to an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border to provide support for intelligence, surveillance and counternarcotics enforcement — providing support for one year as part of the administration’s efforts to diffuse transnational cartel violence and smuggling.
The National Guard Southwest Border deployments augment the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) resources and assets already at the border include:
â€¢524 in Arizona
â€¢ 224 in California
â€¢250 in Texas
â€¢72 in New Mexico
â€¢130 serving as command and control and other support.
State representative Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who also serves as Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on border affairs, is in favor of the decision.
“The Texas National Guard will supplement agents already in those areas,” Cuellar said in a phone interview.
“They will be additional support for the local law enforcement; including Border Patrol agents,” Cuellar said, adding that he feels federal and state officials are “doing a good job.”
The largest number of guardsmen will be stationed in the Rio Grande Valley, where 210 troops will monitor the border. Eighteen will operate ground and sky surveillance and six will analyze data, Cuellar stated.
“Most of the violence happening along the border is on the Mexican side,” Cuellar said. “We don’t want it spilling onto U.S. soil and law enforcement is doing their best not to let that happen.”
Cuellar, a State Representative in the 28rd district, includes 12 counties, with a few along the border. He said that local law enforcement is working with state-of-the-art communications equipment in the areas that are most critical.
Rosa Rosales, National Chairperson for Communications Affairs, at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), believes sending National Guard troops to the United States/ Mexico border is a mistake.
“We are not a war with Mexico,” Rosales said. “Our organization doesn’t see a need for this. We have never been in favor of bringing troops to the borders,” she said. “Sending troops to the border is not the solution. With all the highest respect to the servicemen and women, they are not trained to be border agents. Allow the Border Patrol and Immigration officers do their jobs.”
“Mexico is our friend,” Rosales said assuredly. “We need a package for comprehensive immigration reform right now. We need to contact our Senators and Congressmen to get laws passed,” she said. “LULAC supports some of President Obama’s decisions but this is not one of them.”
In deploying these personnel, The National Guard is operating under a request for assistance from DHS. Border security is a law enforcement mission and these troops will augment with the Administration’s efforts to obstruct drug cartels and criminal organizations that operate along the Southwest border, federal officials said in a press release.
“The deployment of the National Guard troops is a step in the right direction, towards keeping our border communities safe,” Congressman Ciro Rodriguez said. “By allowing these troops to temporarily take over some non-law enforcement functions to enhance intelligence and surveillance capabilities, Border Patrol agents can get back out in the fields and man the front lines,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s 23rd district includes 785 miles of border and 20 counties. “I understand the issues well,” Rodriguez said, adding that he will continue to bring more resources to the district such as increased funding for Operation Stonegarden and other programs that built up our law enforcement presence on the border.” “We cannot allow violence, whether actual or potential, to affect our way of life,” Rodriguez said.
“The President has also requested 4600 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities, which are critical to our ongoing efforts,” General Craig McKinley, Chief of
the National Guard Bureau said.
By Lisa Johnson