Do we need more security on the southern border? Despite assurances from Secretary Janet Napolitano that the border is secure (guess she has to walk back that comment, too), the obvious answer outside of Washington is yes. Will National Guard troops help tighten security at the border? Of course. But the real question is: Should we deploy National Guard troops to the border because there is a legitimate mission for the military — defined as a mission suitable for military forces — or are there state, local, or private-sector assets that would be more appropriate, efficient, and cost-effective? In order to make this determination, we would have to know what the mission is and what other resources are available. We don’t have this information, so we can’t answer those vital questions adequately.
As you may recall, Pres. George W. Bush deployed 6,000 troops to the border as a temporary measure to help out while the ranks of the border patrol were being increased. The Bush administration dramatically increased the number of border-patrol agents to roughly 20,000 and then removed the troops. The Obama administration needs to clearly explain why it is taking this step; what it hopes to achieve; and how this fits into an overall strategy for fixing our insecure border and our flawed immigration system. At present, many Obama administration border-security and immigration efforts seem bipolar: scaling back on enforcement in some areas, claiming to act aggressively in others.
What is most troubling is that the Obama administration still insists on trying to solve the problem by adopting amnesty, a solution that Americans and the Congress rejected just three years ago. If President Obama thinks the pathway to amnesty weaves through a minor show of force on the border, he will be grossly disappointed. By finally acknowledging that the border is not secure, the deployment undermines his amnesty bill efforts. The fact of the matter is that until the border really is secure, we are aggressively enforcing existing interior enforcement laws, and we reform our broken visa system, taking any action to deal with the illegal-immigration population is wholly premature, especially any amnesty provision that would only incent more illegal immigration.
If we want to secure the border, we need a combination of new technologies: border obstacles, including fencing where it makes sense; more assistance to state and local law enforcement on the border; the increased integration and coordination of federal, state, and local efforts; strong enforcement of workplace immigration laws inside the United States; and increased efforts to combat transnational organized crime and gangs.
–Matt A. Mayer is president of the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions.