USA — Obama: Guardsmen Can Aid Intelligence, Interdiction at Border

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2010 — An agree­ment to send hun­dreds of addi­tion­al Nation­al Guards­men to the south­west­ern U.S. bor­der is one part of a com­pre­hen­sive approach need­ed for immi­gra­tion reform, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said today.

Oba­ma spoke briefly to reporters about his deci­sion announced ear­li­er this week to autho­rize as many as 1,200 Guard mem­bers to the bor­der dur­ing a White House news con­fer­ence that had focused on the oil spill off the Louisiana coast.

Asked by a reporter about the Guard-deploy­ment plan in light of a new Ari­zona law to crack down on ille­gal immi­gra­tion, Oba­ma said the plan was shaped last year.

“So this is not sim­ply in response to the Ari­zona law, the pres­i­dent said. The plan became pub­lic ear­li­er this week after Oba­ma met with Ari­zona Sen. John McCain, who has request­ed more fed­er­al resources along the bor­der.

Oba­ma called immi­gra­tion “inher­ent­ly the job of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment,” and said send­ing Guards­men would be a basic step in secur­ing the bor­der before oth­er reforms are imple­ment­ed through leg­is­la­tion.

“I don’t see these issues sole­ly in iso­la­tion,” Oba­ma said of the lay­ers of con­cerns along the bor­der. “We’re not going to solve the prob­lem sole­ly by send­ing Nation­al Guard troops down there. We’re going to do it by cre­at­ing a fair and humane immi­gra­tion frame­work.”

Nation­al Guard troops can help with intel­li­gence work, drug and human traf­fick­ing inter­dic­tion, and reliev­ing bor­der guards on secu­ri­ty tasks so they can do more law enforce­ment, the pres­i­dent said. “So there are a lot of func­tions that they can car­ry out that helps lever­age and increase the resources avail­able in this area,” he said.

In 2006, about 6,000 Nation­al Guard mem­bers par­tic­i­pat­ed in Oper­a­tion Jump Start in Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­i­co and Texas. In accor­dance with fed­er­al law, Guards­men do not serve in direct law enforce­ment roles, but pro­vide rein­force­ment to the U.S. Bor­der Patrol. Their mis­sions includ­ed engi­neer­ing, avi­a­tion, entry iden­ti­fi­ca­tion teams and a wide range of tech­ni­cal, logis­ti­cal and admin­is­tra­tive sup­port.

Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor James L. Jones and Deputy Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor for Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Coun­tert­er­ror­ism and Pres­i­den­tial Assis­tant John O. Bren­nan sent a May 25 let­ter to Michi­gan Sen. Carl Levin, chair­man of the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, explain­ing the administration’s deci­sion not to send a spe­cif­ic num­ber of Guards­men, as one Sen­ate amend­ment calls for. More than 300 Nation­al Guards­men already are work­ing in coun­ternar­cotics duty along the bor­der, they wrote, and more than $1 bil­lion has been secured to deal with drugs and vio­lence along the bor­der.

In autho­riz­ing as many as 1,200 Guards­men to address “evolv­ing bor­der-relat­ed chal­lenges,” the admin­is­tra­tion is avoid­ing deploy­ing an arbi­trary num­ber of per­son­nel, the let­ter says.

“The pres­i­dent is com­mit­ted to a strate­gic approach, con­sist­ing of a require­ments-based, tem­po­rary uti­liza­tion of up to 1,200 addi­tion­al Nation­al Guard troops to bridge to longer-term enhance­ments in bor­der pro­tec­tion and [fed­er­al] law enforce­ment per­son­nel,” the let­ter says.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)