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National Guard to the Border?

This is a good start, but if you remember the last time the National Guard was put on the border they weren’t allowed to carry weapons or apprehend illegal aliens.  They provided little real benefit in securing the border.

Will it be any different this time?  Are we pulling the tiger’s teeth again?  Are they sending a defenseless National Guard to the border to score political points, or will they actually be allowed to DEFEND THEIR STATE AND OUR NATION?


Richardson sends Guard to the border

By Diana M. Alba Sun-News reporter
Posted: 04/01/2010 01:12:01 AM MDT

LAS CRUCES — In the wake of a weekend murder of a southeastern Arizona rancher, Gov. Bill Richardson announced Wednesday he’s sending the National Guard to the international border.

The airmen and soldiers will be stationed along the entire southern border of the state, said Lt. Col. Jamison Herrera, public affairs officer for the Army and Air National Guard in New Mexico.

Herrera said they’ll augment U.S. Border Patrol operations, likely by observing the border, as the National Guard has done in the past. He declined to say how many personnel will be stationed or for how long they’ll stay.

“Too much information up front puts our service members in harm’s way,” he said.

Saturday, Robert Krentz, 58, was shot and killed as he worked on his remote ranch, west of the New Mexico border. No one has been arrested, but the trail of a suspect led authorities to the Mexican border.

The state’s Bootheel region and adjacent southeastern Arizona area has seen a spike in recent months in immigrant-related crime, including vandalisms and home break-ins. Some residents have said it was only a matter of time before a tragedy like that of last weekend occurred.

Harold Kuenstler, county commissioner in Hidalgo County, which covers the Bootheel, was the agent in charge of the Border Patrol’s Lordsburg patrol station until he retired in 1997. He said the recent announcement is a good step in the short-term.

“When the National Guard has gone to the Bootheel, there was a decrease” in trafficking activity, he said. “They have a high presence and visibility, and entries slowed down.”

The National Guard has been called in before to help federal officers. A federal effort, called Operation Jump Start, placed guardsmen along the border in 2007 and 2008 to help watch for illegal immigrant activity and build the border fence. The aim was to augment Border Patrol operations until that agency’s numbers could be built up.

Herrera said the Air and Army National Guard in New Mexico consists of about 4,000 people.

“The National Guard stands ready to help secure our borders and ensure the safety of our residents,” he said.

In addition to the guardsmen, Richardson announced Tuesday that state police, Border Patrol, sheriff’s department personnel numbers would increase along the border.

John Wheeler, secretary of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, declined to quantify how much additional state police manpower will be assigned to the area.

“It is significant across the board,” he said, noting it will “ebb and flow.”

Wheeler said the state also plans to coordinate activities among all levels of law enforcement in the Bootheel area.

A public meeting was slated for Wednesday night in the tiny town of Apache, Ariz., about a dozen miles from Rodeo, N.M., — both communities that have seen a spike in illegal activity. Field representatives of congressmen, the Border Patrol and local law enforcement were expected to attend.

Though the guardsmen are a plus, Kuenstler said long-term measures will be needed. He noted that Border Patrol agent numbers have risen sharply since he retired, and said that personnel increase must continue. But he said he also believes the agency should shift how it monitors for undocumented immigrant traffic. Now, he said he believes agents work too far away from the international border.

“If you wait for them to come 30 miles up, how many ranches have they come through?” he said. “If you’re stationed 10 miles from the border, what about that rancher that has a ranch within 10 miles?”

Diana M. Alba can be reached at dalba@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5443.


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