Toy sol­diers on the border

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

It sounds like Iraq or some other for­eign land, but it hap­pened on U.S. soil two weeks ago. Out­side Sasabe, Ariz., a band of armed as­sailants stormed a Na­tional Guard border post and forced the Guards­men to re­treat with­out a shot. It was a per­sonal af­front to the Guards­men, who should never have been in the un­nat­u­ral po­si­tion of be­ing in­ca­pable of de­fend­ing them­selves in the first place. But they were, thanks to the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s look-tough, act-weak im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

The ob­ser­va­tion post fell be­cause most Guards­men at the border are not even al­lowed to carry loaded weapons, much less de­fend them­selves. The at­tack­ers, in this case prob­a­bly drug or alien smug­glers, quickly re­turned to Mex­ico af­ter the as­sault. It’s past time to re­think this pol­icy of plac­ing Guards­men at the border but de­fang­ing them with overly re­stric­tive rules of en­gage­ment, which now re­sults in a hu­mil­i­a­tion for the Guard, and for the rest of us.

The cen­ter of the prob­lem is Pres­i­dent Bush’s “Op­er­a­tion Jump Start,” which is show­cased as a sup­posed key el­e­ment of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s gen­er­ally tooth­less border pol­icy. This far­ci­cal “ini­tia­tive” has placed 6,000 Guards­men on the bor­der­but dis­al­lows them the abil­ity to do much of any­thing — not even de­fend their po­si­tions. No won­der the uni­formed per­son­nel we know are so an­gry.

In May, when the pres­i­dent an­nounced that th­ese 6,000 Guards­men would be de­ployed, some her­alded it as a step in the right di­rec­tion. Then-House Speaker Den­nis Hastert called the de­ci­sion to send the Guard “the shot in the armwe need to strengthen our borders and pro­tect our fam­i­lies.”

Well, no. The op­po­site was true. Even the pres­i­dent said as much. “Guard units will not be in­volved in di­rect law en­force- ment ac­tiv­i­ties — that duty will be done by the Border Pa­trol,” Mr. Bush said as he an­nounced the move. The Guards­men would as­sist the Border Pa­trol by “op­er­at­ing sur­veil­lance sys­tems, an­a­lyz­ing in­telli- gence, in­stalling fences and ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers, build­ing pa­trol roads and pro­vid­ing train­ing.” But they won’t be able to en­force the law or guard the border.

“The nanny pa­trol” is how un­named Border Pa­trol agents have de­scribed the cur­rent ar­range­ment to Jerry Seper of The Wash­ing­ton Times, and lit­tle won­der. We should point out that this is no fault of the Guards­men, who are sim­ply try­ing to do their jobs. Rather, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is at fault for de­priv­ing them of the means of fend­ing off an at­tack. Ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy makes a kind of cos­tume of their uni­forms — just for show.

If the ad­min­is­tra­tion can present any ev­i­dence what­so­ever that “Op­er­a­tion Jump Start” is not sim­ply a gim­mick to look tough on il­le­gals, it should do so now. We haven’t seen any. In­stead, we’ve seen an ut­terly in­ef­fec­tual border pol­icy and an “Op­er­a­tion Jump Start” which places Guards­men in harm’s way with­out al­low­ing them to de­fend them­selves. That’s an abuse of the Guard.

Let the Guards­men carry loaded weapons, and let them de­fend them­selves. Any­thing less makes them play­things in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

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