What Bush, Obama Deployments of National Guard at Border Suggest About Trump’s Operation
Fred Lucas /
California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, drew surprising praise from President Donald Trump regarding plans to send the state’s National Guard troops to the southern border.
However, Brown seems to be placing many restrictions, according to an Associated Press report Monday. The report says the anonymous federal officials told the AP that California will not allow Guard troops to fix and repair vehicles, operate remotely-controlled surveillance cameras with the Border Patrol, or provide “mission support,” which could include buying gas and handling payroll.
Still other border states, with Republican governors, are stepping up, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s office said the first 80 Guard troops will arrive this week. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was expected to deploy 300. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said he wants to send 300 troops a week and wind up with 1,000 on the border.
Brown previously had exchanged harsh words with Trump in signing a sanctuary state law to protect illegal immigrants and opposing most of the administration’s initiatives to enforce immigration law.
But Brown drew thanks from Trump after the Democrat committed to sending 400 National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.
California Governor Jerry Brown is doing the right thing and sending the National Guard to the Border. Thank you Jerry, good move for the safety of our Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
States were reporting an initial force total of 529 National Guard personnel as of Thursday to support Southwest border operations by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Governors have committed to more troops.
States reportedly committed to about 2,000 National Guard troops at the border, about halfway to Trump’s goal of 4,000 troops. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the troops would be covered by the Defense Department budget but remain under the authority of their governors.
That goal of 4,000 Guard troops is fewer than President George W. Bush sent to the border, but more than President Barack Obama sent.
Brown previously wrote a letter stating the state’s refusal to enforce federal immigration laws and to oppose construction of a border wall, but didn’t provide the level of details in the AP story on Monday.
Using the National Guard isn’t ideal, but is one way to address a border crisis, said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates securing the border and enforcing immigration law.
“They will be in a supportive role, and that frees up the Border Patrol to do their jobs on the front lines,” Mehlman told The Daily Signal. “It’s a stop-gap measure. When you call up the National Guard to defend the border, it means you should have done more to prevent illegal immigration to begin with.”
Mehlman said he is glad Brown isn’t resisting on deploying the National Guard, but that the California governor is taking too little action.
“Jerry Brown is sending National Guard troops, but he should have done a lot more in cutting off the incentives for people to cross the border illegally,” Mehlman said.
The Trump administration hasn’t laid out the cost, but past deployments of the Guard could offer an idea.
Cost and Benefits for Bush and Obama
Bush’s Operation Jump Start involved 6,000 National Guard troops on the border from June 2006 to July 2008, and cost taxpayers $1.2 billion, according to a Government Accountability Office report in 2011.
Obama’s Operation Phalanx, from July 2010 to June 2011, put 1,200 Guard troops on the border and cost taxpayers $35 million.
Under Bush, the Guard assisted in 11.7 percent of the captures of 186,814 illegal immigrants and 9.4 percent of the 316,364 pounds of marijuana seized, according to the GAO.
Under Obama, the Guard assisted in 5.9 percent of the captures of 17,887 illegal immigrants and 2.6 percent of the 56,342 pounds of marijuana seized.
“What happened under Bush and Obama actually did work and had a deterrent effect,” James Carafano, vice president for national security and foreign policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.
“People aren’t stupid,” Carafano said. “This frees up the CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection]. It’s not a permanent solution. But it’s a deterrence and is part of a larger strategy. The president has said no DACA, no more loopholes, and is calling for workplace enforcement.”
Carafano said he doubted the Trump administration’s operation would have a significant effect on the military budget.
There are notable differences, Steven P. Bucci, a former top Pentagon official who is a visiting research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an earlier interview.
“Today, the crisis is less well defined, although People Without Borders has promised continued marches with the intent of ‘busting’ our border,” Bucci said. “There is also a steady stream of illegal alien crossings estimated at 1,000 a day. Not the huge numbers of the earlier periods, but not a trickle either.”
The costs could be significantly different, Bucci said:
Another difference is that during Operation Jump Start, the Bush-era operation, we had much lower levels of Border Patrol agents and much less infrastructure/tech. The force-multiplier effect then was larger than we could expect today. Combined with the fewer border crossings than in 2006, the bang for your buck would be lower today.
Additionally, the military today is significantly underfunded and has been for years. Funding the entire thing with Defense Department money will be a serious drain on a budget that got its first chance at health only recently. If the operation drags on too long, this could be a detriment to our overall national defense.
The National Border Patrol Council, the union for Border Patrol agents, supports having deployment of National Guard troops at the border. But in 2014, the union questioned the effectiveness of a plan pushed by Republican lawmakers.
Before Brown committed California to the effort, the Associated Press reported that other border state governors had committed 1,600 National Guard troops.
Governors of nonborder states, including the Republican governors of Arkansas, Mississippi, and South Carolina, have suggested that their National Guard would be called up for assistance.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican whose state has a large immigrant population, reportedly said he hasn’t been asked.
Texas’ Abbott, a Republican, committed to 250 Guard troops in the first phase of the Trump administration’s action.
Thank you to @TexasGuard, @TXMilitary, & @CBP for your service to ensure the safety and security of Texans by helping to secure our southern border. https://t.co/LDVCvqcMLy pic.twitter.com/pRHfr9qToT
— Gov. Greg Abbott (@GovAbbott) April 12, 2018
Arizona’s Ducey, a Republican, announced he would deploy 225 Guard troops.
Members of the Arizona Army and Air National Guard conduct operational planning for guard personnel to mobilize to the U.S.-Mexico border in support of forthcoming operations. pic.twitter.com/Bo5pNZGqFL
— ArizonaNationalGuard (@AZNationalGuard) April 7, 2018
New Mexico’s Martinez, a Republican, committed 250 troops.
In a recent poll, a plurality of those surveyed, 48 percent, said they support sending National Guard troops to the border, compared to 42 percent who said they oppose it and 9 percent with no opinion.
This article has been corrected to reflect that the Albuquerque Journal is the source of a fact about the GOP governors taking action on the border.