Written by:  Kathleen Campbell Walker

Sitting here in El Paso where I can actually view the border fence and one of our ports of entry from my office window,   I am disappointed to see the typical report about the placement of National Guard troops at the border during an election season.   We are not sure where the troops will be deployed yet, but both Congressman Reyes and Ciro Rodriguez are quoted in the El Paso Times today in support of the effort based on the dual nature of this request (training and enforcement support).     Both Representatives are expressing concerns about the parameters of the mission for the soldiers, and both have asked for more attention to border security related staffing issues for many years.  Apparently, the National Guard will again be directed to provide help in a support role with law enforcement agencies “that patrol” the border and the National Guard also  is to receive training as a part of this deployment to help them overseas later.   We have no idea if the National Guard will be helping an overtaxed and underfunded CBP at our ports in addition to the Border Patrol between our ports.  Governor Perry and Senator Cornyn are quoted in the same article indicating that such efforts are not enough.  Gov. Perry apparently wants to send 1,000 soldiers exclusively to the U.S. Mexico border.  What will be the mandate to such troops as to engagement?  In 1997, an 18 year old goat herder named Esequiel Hernandez was killed by Marines in Redford, Texas assisting in drug surveillance.   We need to be clear on the use of deadly force authority and clear on the actual risk levels at the border.

Where is the agreed definition of what constitutes achievment of the goal of  “border security?”    How can just the placement of boots on ground be the solution?    We seem to keep taking actions without an overall plan.  Are we restarting Operation Jump Start from the Bush Administation that put 6,000 troops on the border?  What did Congress  and the Adminstration find was the result of such deployment?

What are the actual staffing levels of CBP officers and Border Patrol needed to accomplish “border security?”   What I see are seriously  insufficient staffing levels and benefits for overtaxed CBP officers.    A National Guard deployment does nothing to address this point, if the guard is posted only with the Border Patrol.  Certainly, Cong. Reyes, as a former border patrol officer, has been pushing for years on bills to improve this situation among other legislators, but the cure proposed is more than just enforcement.

If the goal of all of this effort and expenditure is to do our best to reduce illegal immigration to the U.S., then why are we so drawn like moths to a flame of illusory one shot security cures.   In states strapped for cash and for that matter a federal government basically on the dole, don’t we need to be as careful as possible to get the most bang for our buck with security dollars.  There is a Washington Post article, which was published today entitled “Arizona immigration law will boost crime in U.S. cities, police chiefs say.”  As numerous reports from law enforcement organizations have stated in the past, laws requiring local law enforcement to determine immigration status result in people not reporting crime.   Are we using public dollars under this law to really achieve security?  (This type of law enforcement effort  is separate from checking jails for those incarcerated, who are not lawfully in the U.S.)

So do we just tolerate illegal immigration?  The answer is no, but recognize that addressing the issue of illegal immigration takes extreme  political courage to do the right thing.   President Obama’s administration is continuing Operation Streamline to support border enforcement efforts with 1325 and 1326 actions under 8 USC even though the federal courts are not sufficiently staffed.  In addition, ICE is detaining more numbers than in the past and employers are being subject to more scrutiny from the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Division and by ICE with I-9 audits and inspection.  The cure to the illegal immigration conundrum have been debated for long enough.   Leadership must see beyond the election year and make our immigration system function in our favor, which includes making it easier to employ those who will help our nation’s economy and future and implement a realistic border security plan integrating intelligence and foreign relations efforts.

I agree with the conclusion of the Council of Foreign Relations 2009 Immigration Task Force report:

The Task Force finds that these measures  (enforcement over past several years) represent determined, expansive efforts to control America’s borders and enforce U.S. immigration laws.  No amount of enforcement can eliminate the underlying problem, which is that aggressively enforcing a broken regime does not fix it. Unless the United States has a more sensible and efficient system for admitting legal migrants who come to take advantage of work opportunities, no reasonable level of enforcement is likely to be enough to resolve the illegal immigration problem. ….