The President has announced he plans to send up to 1,200 troops to the border with Mexico, a move that prompts many questions.
Sending troops to the border makes sense, when it makes sense—in other words, if it is an appropriate, effective, and efficient use of military manpower. In 2006, President Bush sent over 6,000 troops to the border to assist in the build-up of the Border Patrol. Some National Guard units routinely deploy to the border in support of state and federal authorities as part of annual training duties.
Whether this announced deployment fits into the category of makes sense is difficult to tell. There are few details available. In addition, in terms of the overall security of the border it is difficult to see how these forces would make a strategic difference. The border with Mexico is almost 2,000 miles long. The US government already has over 20,000 border patrol agents. Given that many soldiers in a military unit are support and command personnel and the unit has to operate 24 hours a day (requiring shift work), at best the deployment of 1,200 will a few hundred soldiers on the border at any one time.
The deployment also does not seem to square with remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano that in recent Congressional testimony that the border is more secure than it has ever been. “I say this again, as someone who has walked that border, ridden it, flown it and driven it,” Napolitano said. “I believe it is as secure as it ever has been.”
This move also does not square with the president’s desire for an amnesty bill. Amnesties only encourage more illegal entry.
A draft amnesty proposal that the White House supports claims it will secure the border and enforce immigration and work place laws first. But there is serious reason to doubt the administration’s resolve including recent efforts demonize Arizona for attempting to deal with massive flooding people unlawfully present in the state.
Hopefully, this deployment is a serious effort to help make the border secure and not just for show. We won’t know until we get more facts.
Even if this deployment makes sense it will not solve the problem of broken borders and a failed immigration system. There is no silver bullet other than policies that make sense.