Wednesday, October 26, 2005

National Guard on the Border?

Allan Wall asks a question I've asked before: Why can't the National Guard be deployed, or rotated through, our nations borders. I know some people with ties to the Border Patrol, and they're not crazy with the idea of people not trained in such work. But as Wall points out, perhaps our National Guard has had a crash course after all: in Iraq.
Some say it's impossible to secure our borders. I don't believe it. Here in Iraq I've seen what a determined national policy can accomplish in a short time. Back home, borders could be secured, if the political will existed. The technical means exist already. We have the resources. We have the personnel. Some have suggested we use the National Guard to secure the borders. . .

Many of the tasks necessary to secure the U.S. border are the same tasks we are already performing here in Iraq. They could be carried out just as easily (and less expensively) on our own borders. Here in Iraq, National Guardsmen are patrolling 24/7, logging thousands of miles in armored humvees. Why can't they do the same on our own borders ?

In Iraq, Guardsmen secure defensive perimeters, they man guard towers, they operate UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). They do surveillance in the dark with night-vision equipment. Why can't they do the same on the borders of their own country?

Currently, Guard units are being called up on 18-month deployments to Iraq and other places. Why can't they be deployed the same length of time to guard the border? When a Guard unit is not deployed, guardsmen train a total of about 40 days a year, one weekend a month and a two-week "annual training" period. Why not rotate National Guard units in and out of border duty for their yearly "training" period?

. . . Under current federal law, the U.S. military can't physically detain illegal aliens, and leaves it to the border patrol to do it. But the military can still do patrolling, reconnaissance, and surveillance on the border. We're doing it in Iraq right now. To support these operations, permanent bases could be constructed along the border, to house troops and store equipment. Putting the Guard on the borders would send a message that we are finally serious about controlling our own borders.
It also doesn't preclude introducing Border Patrol training as part of the rotation. I suspect part of the fears expressed by those in the Border Patrol over such ideas has to do with protecting their institutional turf. They are all for increasing the number of Border Patrol agents. I am too, but there is probably a role to be had for some more muscle, don't you think?

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