A New Role for the Undermanned Border Patrol

Daily News Article   —   Posted on August 17, 2006

(by Jerry Seper, WashingtonTimes.com) – National Guard troops deployed
along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of President Bush’s plan to free U.S.
Border Patrol agents have been assigned bodyguards — some of the same agents
the soldiers were sent to relieve.
    Several veteran Border
Patrol agents in Arizona told The Washington Times they were issued standing
orders to be within five minutes of National Guard troops along the border and
that Border Patrol units were pulled from other regions to protect the Guard
units — leaving their own areas short-handed.
agents, who refer to the assignment as “the nanny patrol,” said most of the
Guard troops are not allowed to carry loaded weapons, despite a significant
increase in border violence directed at Border Patrol agents and other
law-enforcement personnel over the past year.
National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), which represents all 10,000 of the
agency’s nonsupervisory agents, said the presence of more than 6,000 Guard
troops on the border has allowed a few hundred agents to be reassigned from
administrative to field duties, but that “about the same number are now assigned
to guard the National Guard troops.”
    “Other agents are
being assigned to supervise the National Guard troops, who are performing
different administrative tasks,” said NBPC President T.J. Bonner, a 28-year
Border Patrol veteran.
    “Overtime has been authorized for
these duties, but was not authorized for patrolling the border prior to the
arrival of the National Guard.”
    Nearly 6,200 Guard troops
have been deployed along the border from California to Texas as part of
“Operation Jump Start,” Mr. Bush’s $760 million plan to increase the number of
Border Patrol agents actually patrolling the 1,951-mile Southwest border.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman Mike
Friel yesterday said National Guard troops are not at the border in a
law-enforcement capacity, but only to report illegal entries to the Border
    “The Border Patrol’s priority mission is to
detect, deter and apprehend individuals crossing illegally into the United
States,” Mr. Friel said.
    “It makes sense that agents
would be nearby the National Guard members who are there to be our eyes and ears
in order to respond immediately and apprehended the illegal aliens.”

    About a third of the Guard force is assigned to
entry-identification teams, which monitor major illegal-immigration and
drug-smuggling corridors along the border — mostly in Arizona. Using
binoculars, night-vision equipment and Global Positioning Systems, the teams
seek to spot anyone entering the country illegally and report their position to
the Border Patrol.
    The troops also are building roads and
fences, adding cameras and sensors, conducting aerial reconnaissance, providing
medical aid and communications support, performing administrative duties,
gathering intelligence from border cameras, assisting at highway checkpoints,
and working as mechanics to repair the agency’s trucks and cars.

    The operation was designed to give the Border Patrol time
to recruit and train 6,000 new agents to bring its field strength to 17,000.

    CBP Commissioner Ralph Basham has said the Guard’s
deployment had “made a powerful impact on the security of our southern border,”
adding that fewer people were crossing illegally into the United States. He also
said the Guard’s deployment had enabled more than 315 agents to be moved from
back-office administrative functions to frontline border-enforcement duties.

    Mr. Bonner also said Border Patrol agents were ordered to
chase away the “scouts” posted by alien and drug smugglers in the hills on the
border, who report by radio the location of law-enforcement personnel. He said
that assignment began a few days before the National Guard troops were deployed.

    “While I’m sure that Border Patrol management will claim
these measures are being undertaken to ensure the safety of the National Guard
troops, it is obvious they will also push the smuggling traffic to other areas,”
he said. “Since many areas of the border are still not being observed or
patrolled, it is no more difficult today to avoid detection and apprehension
than it was before the deployment of the National Guard.”
“This should not be interpreted as criticism of these dedicated soldiers.
Unfortunately, they are being used as political pawns by this administration in
its ill-advised quest to sell its myopic and harmful immigration-reform
package,” he said.
    Mr. Bonner also said he doubted there
was a “legitimate need” for 6,000 administrative personnel to support a work
force of fewer than 12,000 agents.
    He and the senior
agents also questioned whether Operation Jump Start has been as successful as
Bush administration and Border Patrol officials have suggested, challenging
estimates last week that the apprehension of illegals aliens dropped by 45
percent since the National Guard’s arrival.
statistics they cite in support of their claims of success are extremely
misleading,” Mr. Bonner said, adding that apprehensions from May to July were
compared with those from March to May.
    “There always is a
significant seasonal decline in apprehensions at that time of the year,
generally about 30 percent. This year’s decline was somewhat higher, about 45
percent, primarily because of the record-breaking heat in June and July, not the
presence of the National Guard troops.”
    Mr. Bonner said
in comparing apprehensions from Oct. 1 to July 31 with the same period in
2004-2005, apprehensions are down 3 percent, which he called “statistically
    “It is much more accurate to say that a
million illegal aliens were caught trying to sneak across our borders this year,
and several million more did so successfully,” he said.

Copyright 2006
News World Communications, Inc.
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