Apparently it’s not enough for the Trump administration to lock up pregnant women, deny people their constitutional rights, and separate children with disabilities from their families all in the name of immigration enforcement. Now the President, ably assisted by Governor Abbott, is sending the National Guard to occupy the southern border as well.
But dispatching troops to the border is unnecessary, irresponsible and potentially catastrophic.
First, the border is already occupied by Customs and Border Protection, the largest law enforcement agency in the country, with a multi-billion dollar budget and an air force the size of Brazil’s. 16,000 Border Patrol agents scour border communities, often endangering undocumented migrants and asylum seekers and occasionally executing unarmed teenagers. And all of this at a time when the Department of Homeland Security itself boasts that the border has never been harder to cross undetected. Indeed, the average agent only apprehends two people per month, many of whom are families and children turning themselves in for asylum.
Additionally, since 2014 the state of Texas has spent more than $2 billion on border security, arguing that the federal government was not doing enough to carry out its constitutional duty to secure the border. However, Department of Public Safety officers dispatched to the border have neither the training nor the constitutional authority to conduct immigration enforcement, and thus engage in racial profiling and blanket traffic stops that in many cases lead to deportation and the separation of families. Setting aside the fact that those billions would be much better spent on education, infrastructure or healthcare, DPS has proved either unwilling or unable to provide receipts for its activities during the border surge or, for that matter, any metrics of its success.
Moreover, Governor Abbott’s gleefully applied signature on Senate Bill 4 in essence drafts every single law enforcement officer in the state of Texas into Donald Trump’s deportation force.
Adding a standing army to the existing and unacceptable status quo of border militarization would only further oppress the 15 million residents who call the border home, and who suffer the daily indignities of racial profiling, checkpoints and countless immigration status interrogations poorly disguised as traffic stops.
Every day those who live in our border communities are subjected to a politically motivated narrative about themselves that bears no relationship whatsoever to their reality. Contrary to what President Trump wants everyone to believe, border crossings are at a near historic low, and it’s safer to live in any border town you care to name—Laredo, El Paso, Edinburg, McAllen, Brownsville—than it is in Washington, D.C.
And finally, using the National Guard as an immigration enforcement tool will inevitably invite disaster. The ranks of the Border Patrol have been swelling for years, but without adequate training, oversight, and an understanding of the communities in their jurisdictions, corruption runs rampant through its ranks. Add to that the Fifth Circuit’s recent decision regarding cross-border shootings, and we have a recipe for catastrophe; the lack of training, understanding and accountability would all apply to a National Guard presence in our border regions.
The border is already militarized, Mr. President, and the people who live there already feel your boot on the back of their necks. We do not need troops, and we do not need a wall. It’s time to start telling the truth, to stop exploiting our border communities for political points, and to start respecting their civil rights and liberties.