Obama Will Send 1,200 Troops to the Border

By Julianne Hing May 25, 2010

President Obama plans to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to bolster border security measures. The troops will be accompanied by an extra $500 million President Obama has promised for border protection and law enforcement work. According to the AP, National Guard troops will work on "intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, analysis and training, and support efforts blocking drug trafficking." Obama’s plan mirrors a similar proposal made by Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl back in April which called for 3,000 additional troops and increased spending on so-called "border security" measures that militarize the border. And yet, the numbers of needed troops increase every time McCain takes the mic. On Tuesday, McCain gave a speech on the Senate floor and called for 6,000 National Guard members at the border. Obama is reportedly asking for these troop increases in anticipation of Republicans’ demands on a war spending bill this week. But Obama’s already outpaced his predecessors in spending on border security and military presence at the border. The president’s 2010 budget set aside an extra $26.1 million for 65 more Border Patrol officers and 44 Border Patrol agents and the expansion of surveillance programs. On top of that, Obama set aside $20 million for inspection equipment, and another $19.5 million for more troops this year. By the end of last year, Obama had increased the ranks of Border Patrol to 20,119 people, a 100 percent increase in staffing since just 2004. Indeed, at a Senate hearing on border security issues, U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Alan Bersin said that Customs and Border Patrol is the largest uniformed federal law enforcement agency in the country. As always, the Obama administration has maintained that their goal is to curb drug trafficking and the very real threat of narco-crime while dealing with people entering the country without papers. They’ve got many goals, but the cumulative effect is that terrorists, drug dealers, and the vast majority of migrant families alike are uniformly criminalized with the increased military presence at the border. Just last week, the Immigration Policy Center, a think tank established by a professional immigration lawyers association, reminded folks of data that show that border security work isn’t getting to the people the Obama administration says they want to be catching.

Immigration prosecutions now account for over one half of all federal prosecutions, while federal prosecutions of non immigration-related crimes have decreased. The majority of these immigration prosecutions are for low-level crimes, mainly first time illegal entry. In contrast, smuggling and drug trafficking charges were brought less frequently. Drug prosecutions currently represent approximately 16% of the total number of federal prosecutions. Between 2003 and 2008, weapons prosecutions decreased 19% and drug prosecutions declined by 20%.