Na­tional Guards­men get a ‘nanny pa­trol’ on un­der­staffed border

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Jerry Seper

Na­tional Guard troops de­ployed along the U.S.-Mex­ico border as part of Pres­i­dent Bush’s plan to free U.S. Border Pa­trol agents have­been 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.

The agents, who re­fer to the as­sign­men­tas“thenanny 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.

The 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 theNa­tion­alGuard.”

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 said Na­tional Guard troops are not at the border in a law-en­force­ment ca­pac­ity, bu­ton­ly­tore­port il­le­gal en­tries to the Border Pa­trol.

“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 would­be­n­ear­bytheNa­tion­alGuard 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,which­mon­i­tor­ma­jor il­le­gal­im­mi­gra­tion and drug-smug­gling cor­ri­dor­sa­longth­e­bor­der—mostly in­Ari­zona. Us­ing binoc­u­lars, nightvi­sion equip­ment and Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tems, the teams seek to spot any­one en­ter­ing the coun­try il­le­gally and re­port their po­si­tion to the Border Pa­trol.

Thetroop­sal­soare­build­in­groads and fences, adding cam­eras and sen­sors, con­duct­ing ae­rial re­con­nais­sance, pro­vid­ing med­i­cal aid and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sup­port, per­formin­gad­min­is­tra­tive du­ties, gath­er­ing intelligence from­bor­der­cam­eras, as­sist­ing at high­way check­points, and work­ing as me­chan­ics to re­pairtheagency’strucks 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 few­days 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 the­bor­der­are still not­be­ing ob­served or pa­trolled, it is no more dif­fi­cult to­day to avoid de­tec­tion and ap­pre­hen­sion than it was be­fore the de­ploy­ment of the Na­tional Guard.”

“Thisshould­not­bein­ter­pretedas crit­i­cis­moftheseded­i­cated 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.

“The sta­tis­tics they cite in­sup­port 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, pri­mar­ily­be­cause 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 20042005, ap­pre­hen­sions are down 3 per­cent, which he called “sta­tis­ti­cally in­signif­i­cant.”

“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.

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