States urged to send border troops to fill void left by Guard draw­down

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

Gov­er­nors in Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona, New Mex­ico and Texas are be­ing urged to use their le­gal author­ity un­der fed­eral and state law to coun­ter­act Pres­i­dent Bush’s or­der to pull half of the 6,000 Na­tional Guard troops from the U.S.Mex­ico border.

The U.S. Free­dom Foun­da­tion wants Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, Ari­zona Gov. Janet Napoli­tano, New Mex­ico Gov. Bill Richard­son and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to is­sue ex­ec­u­tive or­ders to re­place any Na­tional Guard forces with­drawn from the border with troops un­der state com­mand.

The foun­da­tion, a Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based non­par­ti­san group that seeks to re­store in­di­vid­ual free­doms and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties of mid­dle-class Amer­i­cans, has asked the gov­er­nors of the re­main­ing 46 states to im­me­di­ately come to the sup­port of the mis­sion by of­fer­ing troops to as­sist ef­forts by the four border states.

“Four states should not be asked to as­sume the home­land se­cu­rity bur­den of the en­tire na­tion,” said U.S. Free­dom Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent John E. Stone. “But in this case, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has ab­di­cated its con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to de­fend our borders. The peo­ple, through the states, must now take up the job that our Repub­li­can pres­i­dent and Demo­cratic Congress have aban­doned.”

The call is in re­sponse to a Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounce­ment that it in­tends to draw down by Sept. 1 the num­ber of Na­tional Guard sol­diers now on the South­west border from 6,000 last year to 3,000.

The Guard mem­bers were as­signed as part of Mr. Bush’s “Op­er­a­tion Jump Start,” a gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive aimed at help­ing the U.S. Border Pa­trol pro­tect the border while it re­cruits, hires, trains and as­signs 6,000 new agents.

“The Na­tional Guard troops who have been as­sist­ing the Border Pa­trol for the last year have as­sisted by op­er­at­ing sur­veil­lance sys­tems, in­stalling fence and ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers, build­ing pa­trol roads and con­duct­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive du­ties,” said White House spokesman Scott M. Stanzel.

“Op­er­a­tion Jump Start was al­ways in­tended to pro­vide tem­po­rary sup­port to the Border Pa­trol while it re­cruited more agents and new in­fra­struc­ture projects were started,” he said. “As the pres­i­dent in­di­cated in May of last year, this ini­tial com­mit­ment of troops was planned to be in place for one year.”

But Mr. Stone said the gov­er­nors have full le­gal author­ity to de­ploy their Na­tional Guard and State De­fense Forces “as they see fit to pro­tect the cit­i­zens of their state.” He said the only ques­tion is whether the states can force the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to pay their costs.

“But re­gard­less of fed­eral re­im­burse­ment, if all 50 gov­er­nors would com­mit to main­tain­ing the ex­ist­ing de­ploy­ment level, it would only re­quire an av­er­age com­mit­ment of 60 sol­diers per state to re­place the 3,000 troops the pres­i­dent has or­dered with­drawn,” he said. “That is a mi­nus­cule price to help se­cure our border.”

Mr. Stone said that while the 6,000 Guard troops de­ployed over the last year are cred­ited with re­duc­ing il­le­gal border cross­ings by 24 per­cent, the U.S. Free­dom Foun­da­tion sup­ports a 36,000troop de­ploy­ment plan that would “vir­tu­ally end il­le­gal cross­ings on the south­ern border.”

Since Op­er­a­tion Jump Start be­gan in June 2006, the Border Pa­trol has added 2,300 agents and U.S. Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner W. Ralph Basham, who over­sees the Border Pa­trol, said the agency is “on track to meet our goal.”

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