By Jordy Yager - 03/15/11 11:22 PM EDT
The top-ranking House Republican on border issues is pushing the Obama administration to extend the National Guard’s presence along the U.S.-Mexico border and possibly deploy the U.S. Army to help stymie violence from the drug cartels.
Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), the chairwoman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on border and maritime security, told The Hill that it would be a “serious mistake” if the White House failed to re-authorize the deployment of National Guard troops to the border region beyond their end date on June 30.
Last May, President Obama authorized 1,200 National Guardsmen to be deployed by California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas to provide material support for the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Operation Phalanx. Since Operation Phalanx began last July, officials have seized more than 14,000 pounds of drugs and millions of dollars in illicit currency, according to DHS records.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has trumpeted recent DHS statistics that show an increase in the number of arrests and seizures of illegal goods along the border, and a decrease in the number of illegal border crossings. She cites the increased law enforcement presence in the region.
But Miller is concerned that drug cartels may step up their attempts to funnel drugs, weapons, and cash into the U.S., if the Guardsmen are allowed to stand down, as currently scheduled, in less than four months. Instead, she said, the National Guard presence needs to be maintained and the Obama administration needs to consider sending an active duty Army unit to the region.
“If we had an Army Stryker brigade there, I think the drug cartels would think twice about coming across the border,” said Miller.
Additionally, Miller said that a national strategy should be conceived so that other states, besides those along the border, are authorized to send their National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. This would free up the National Guardsmen of the border states in the event of a local emergency.
“It doesn’t seem as though the Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico National Guard should bare the entire burden,” she said. “Perhaps we should think about a nationwide plan – since we are protecting the nation’s borders – to have some of the other states deploy National Guard as well.”
On Tuesday, Miller held a hearing in which she heard testimony from the head of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Arizona National Guard, and the director of homeland security and justice issues for the Government Accountability Office (GAO).