Since the beginning of August 1,500 National Guard have been stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border to provide added support to the thousands of Border Patrol agents already patrolling the region. Their assignment is to provide intelligence and surveillance support, as well as training and analysis to people already at the border. But they are not allowed to shoot their firearms unless in self-defense, and must notify Border Patrol agents before any arrest can be made.
For this, immigration hawks are wailing, the AP reports. The piece quotes heavily from Russell Pearce, an Arizona state representative and an architect of SB 1070:
"They’re military, and instead of letting them do their job, we let them down there with typewriter ribbon and oil cans,” said Pearce. “We send them overseas in harm’s way but we don’t let them defend our own borders in a proper manner?"
Pearce told the AP that National Guard were all but a "welcome wagon" to migrants trying to cross into the country. Pearce has criticized National Guard troops’ lack of arrest power, and the restrictions on when they can shoot their firearms, and said the program was similar to a 6,000-troop deployment by President George W. Bush in 2006.
The point, though, is that for immigration restrictionists, more border militarization is never enough.
President Obama announced their deployment in May as part of his administration’s strategy to win Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform. This summer Congress swiftly passed an immigration bill that added $600 million more for 1,000 new Border Patrol agents and unmanned aerial drones, as well as other surveillance equipment. And still, Republicans like Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain call for increased military presence at the border and bolstered immigration enforcement inside the country while the most staunch immigrant-rights allies in Congress make a show of begrudgingly acquiescing to Republican demands for more enforcement.
Meanwhile, border residents contend that despite claims to the contrary, their towns and cities are safer than ever. Even the Border Patrol has said that claims of violence along the border are overblown.
Reprinted with permission of ColorLines magazine.