Guards­men on bor­der al­lowed to carry guns

But troops banned from en­forc­ing law

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Some Na­tional Guard troops de­ployed to the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der will be al­lowed to carry weapons — but they will not, under any cir­cum­stances, be al­lowed to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws nor will they be put in a po­si­tion where they’re likely to en­counter il­le­gal im­mi­grants, top ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Mon­day.

More than 900 troops were on the bor­der al­ready this week: 650 of them in Texas, 60 in New Mex­ico and about 250 in Ari­zona.

But Cal­i­for­nia, which last week had sig­naled a will­ing­ness to help, has ef­fec­tively with­drawn its com­mit­ment. Gov. Jerry Brown of­fered such strict con­di­tions that the guard wouldn’t have been al­lowed to watch sur­veil­lance cam­eras, fix Bor­der Pa­trol ve­hi­cles, op­er­ate ra­dios or per­form cler­i­cal du­ties that could have freed Bor­der Pa­trol agents to get into the field.

Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said they’ll make an­other of­fer as they hope to en­tice Mr. Brown back to the ta­ble with a dif­fer­ent set of du­ties. One op­tion would be to have the guard screen cargo com­ing through the of­fi­cial ports of en­try, which would al­low troops to as­sist with­out wor­ry­ing about fa­cil­i­tat­ing the Bor­der Pa­trol in catch­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants, drug-smug­glers or other cross-bor­der il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

“We are an­tic­i­pat­ing ad­di­tional re­quire­ments. We got a sig­nal from Cal­i­for­nia they’re in­ter­ested in im­prov­ing bor­der se­cu­rity. At some point that might come to­gether,” said Ron­ald D. Vi­tiello, act­ing deputy com­mis­sioner of Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, which over­sees both the Bor­der Pa­trol and the ports of en­try.

Mr. Brown faced se­vere crit­i­cism at home af­ter he said last week he would be will­ing to of­fer some 400 Na­tional Guard troops to Pres­i­dent Trump’s bor­der surge, under strict

con­di­tions. Im­mi­grant-rights ad­vo­cates said he should have re­fused to of­fer any as­sis­tance.

The gover­nor ap­pears to have heeded the crit­i­cism in cur­tail­ing his of­fer.

Texas, Ari­zona and New Mex­ico, though, have em­braced Mr. Trump’s re­quest, with Repub­li­can gover­nors in those states even hold­ing high-pro­file send-off cer­e­monies for their troops.

“Texas has stepped up to an­swer the call,” Gov. Greg Ab­bott said as he re­viewed his troops last week.

Mr. Trump’s de­ploy­ment, dubbed Oper­a­tion Guardian Sup­port, is still com­ing to­gether, and there is no cost es­ti­mate yet. But of­fi­cials said they’re plan­ning for about 2,000 troops to­tal.

And they in­sisted they won’t make the same mis­takes as pre­vi­ous de­ploy­ments such as Oper­a­tion Jump Start dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, when guard troops were de­ployed for con­struc­tion and other for­ward ac­tiv­i­ties — but were un­armed and had to be pro­tected by Bor­der Pa­trol agents.

Agents at the time dubbed it “nanny pa­trol” duty, and said it meant that while the guard freed agents from some du­ties, many of them ended up on pro­tec­tion jobs any­way, un­der­cut­ting the force mul­ti­plier the guard was sup­posed to be.

“They’re not go­ing to be in that sim­i­lar kind of role,” Mr. Vi­tiello said, promis­ing they learned the lessons of the ear­lier de­ploy­ment.

He and De­fense Depart­ment of­fi­cials briefed re­porters on the de­ploy­ment two weeks af­ter Mr. Trump said he was send­ing troops to help out, and a week af­ter the first guard de­ploy­ments reached the bor­der.

Each of the three of­fi­cials at the brief­ing re­peat­edly said none of the troops will be al­lowed to en­force laws, in­clud­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws, dur­ing their time on duty.

In fact, they’re be­ing kept away from any­thing that could lead to en­coun­ters with il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

“They will not be placed in di­rect con­tact with per­son­nel com­ing across the bor­der,” said Robert G. Sa­lesses, a deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of de­fense.

De­spite that stand­off role, some of the troops may still end up armed. The of­fi­cials said those de­ci­sions will be made by gover­nors and lo­cal com­man­ders based on self-de­fense needs dur­ing each mis­sion.

“They’ll take a look at the ex­act job the per­son’s do­ing,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokan­son, vice chief of the Na­tional Guard Bureau.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion said guard troops are a bridge de­signed to help get the coun­try closer to “op­er­a­tional con­trol” over the bor­der. Mr. Vi­tiello said chang­ing U.S. law to cut down on “loop­holes” could change the in­cen­tives that are draw­ing a re­newed surge of il­le­gal im­mi­grants to make the jour­ney.

While il­le­gal cross­ings dropped to his­tor­i­cally low lev­els early in Mr. Trump’s ten­ure, they have since re­turned to Obama-era lev­els — with par­tic­u­larly strik­ing rises in il­le­gal im­mi­grant chil­dren and fam­i­lies.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ploy­ment of Na­tional Guard troops, dubbed Oper­a­tion Guardian Sup­port, is still com­ing to­gether. There is no cost es­ti­mate yet. But of­fi­cials said they’re plan­ning for about 2,000 troops to­tal. Some states have held send-off cer­e­monies.

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