Obama Sends in the Troops

It's Going to be an Expensive Mid-term Election
by Published on

While conservatives have already started blaming President Obama for not allowing the National Guard to construct gun turrets on top of the 18-foot border wall and start blazing away, it’s actually those sissies at the Pentagon that want to make sure the 1,200 additional troops don’t engage in law enforcement duties.

According to CBS News: “Pentagon officials, worried about perceptions that the U.S. was militarizing the border, argued that the National Guard could only be used for particular duties. Military leaders said they did not want National Guard troops to screen vehicles at border points or perform any law enforcement duties, and said the program should be temporary and not tied to any existing program that could get extended.”

So, if the Pentagon doesn’t think the border needs troops, what’s this all about you ask?  Quite simply, like everything else in Washington D.C., it’s about money and elections.

That’s right. As I’ve said before It’s mid-term elections, folks. So, batten down the hatches and get ready for the National Guard. I Remember back in 2006,  President George W. Bush stalking through Yuma with his shirtsleeves rolled up and backed by an impressive phalanx of border troops. Back then the Republicans needed a bump in the polls during mid-term elections. So we got Operation Jumpstart a deployment of 6,000 soldiers. Border security (i.e. the hordes of unwashed masses) and gay marriage helped ratchet up the voter fear level to Red Alert.

And by God if it doesn’t work every time. Nothing gets voters to the polls faster then a good dose of fear coursing through their synapses.

Back then Senator “complete that danged fence” McCain was actually working in a bipartisan effort to solve our broken immigration system with Senator Kennedy. Ah, those were the days. We were so close back then – we even had 20 Republicans supporting reform – but now, alas things have deteriorated considerably.

McCain is clutching onto his Senate seat with all of his strength. And the mighty anti-incumbent wind whistling through Congress is about to blow him right out of it. Is it any accident that as McCain’s polling numbers go down in Arizona the Senator asks for more troops for the border? First it was 3,000 in his McCain/Kyl  secure border plan. This month it’s 6,000.

Is it any accident that two of the Republican Governors (Perry and Brewer) asking for National Guard troops on the border are currently running for re-election? The other two (Schwarzenegger, a Republican and New Mexico’s Bill Richardson, a Democrat) have reached their term limits. This year, Schwarzenegger didn’t deploy the National Guard as he did in 2006. In March, Richardson announced the deployment of New Mexico National Guard troops to the border after the shooting death of an Arizona rancher in late March.

Border law enforcement have said consistently that they have the threat from drug cartel traffickers under control. They frequently say they can always hire more officers which can be funded under the federal Operation Stonegarden program. What they don’t need is military troops.

The National Guard is political window dressing, folks. A decision made by the Obama Administration after a closed door meeting with Republican leaders yesterday. The Republicans will not lift a finger to work on comprehensive immigration reform until after elections in November. By being increasingly hawkish and immovable as stone, the Grand Ol’ Party is betting everything it has on immigrant bashing this election season. “Secure the borders first,” they say. “Then we’ll talk.”

They said the same thing back in 2006 and 2007. The last deployment of the National Guard by Bush in 2006 was to strengthen border security while more Border Patrol agents were hired. We’ve now doubled the number of border agents from 10,000 in 2004 to 20,000 in 2009. And according to a March 2010 press release, Homeland Security has “doubled the number of personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces; tripled the number of ICE intelligence analysts working along the U.S.-Mexico border; quadrupled deployments of Border Liaison Officers; and begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs and cash—for the first time ever.”

If you’ve been anywhere near the Texas-Mexico border these days you’ll see the skyline dotted with surveillance towers and an 18-foot wall. Not to mention swarms of Border Patrol SUVs. All that’s missing at this point are the military tanks.

The states and the Pentagon have been bickering for nearly a year over who should pay for this latest deployment of guardsmen. Their bickering over the deployment is because the Pentagon brass knows the deployment is not warranted. This time, I think elected officials should pay for it out of their campaign accounts.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. She has a master’s in public health from Texas A&M University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.