Bush's speech tonight will apparently include a proposal to send thousands of National Guard troops to the border. In total, this is a good thing, as it is absolutely necessary that the US be able to protect its border. I assume that the troops will also be sent to the porous Canadian border, especially since there's been at least one attempted terrorist infiltration from up north.
Here's a WaPo story on the matter:
Bush Set To Send Guard to Border
Assignment Would Be Temporary; Critics Cite Strain on Troops
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 15, 2006; A01
President Bush tried to ease the worries of his Mexican counterpart yesterday as he prepared for a nationally televised address tonight unveiling a plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to help seal the nation's southern border against illegal immigrants.
Mexican President Vicente Fox called to express concern over the prospect of militarization of the border, and Bush reassured him that it would be only a temporary measure to bolster overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, the White House said.
"The president made clear that the United States considers Mexico a friend and that what is being considered is not militarization of the border but support of Border Patrol capabilities on a temporary basis by National Guard personnel," said White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri.
Yet the idea has further stirred an already volatile debate about immigration on both sides of the border even before the president makes his prime-time speech from the Oval Office at 8 p.m. A number of Democrats and even a few key Republicans voiced skepticism or outright opposition to the reported plan yesterday, calling it a politically motivated move that will only further strain units already stretched by duty in Iraq without solving the underlying problem of illegal immigration.
"We have to be very careful here," Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said yesterday on ABC's "This Week." "That's not the role of our military. That's not the role of our National Guard. . . . That's a short-term fix, and I'm not sure that's a very wise fix."
The White House formally insisted that no decision has been made and that Bush was still considering options yesterday. But aides left little doubt that the president intends to call for an expanded Guard deployment at the border involving several thousand troops, a significant increase from the 200 or so now there.
Officials suggested their mission would be to play a supporting role by providing intelligence, training, transportation, construction and other functions, while leaving the actual guarding of the 2,000-mile line separating the United States and Mexico to the Border Patrol. The National Guard would be a stopgap force until the federal government could hire civilian contractors to take over administrative and support functions from the Border Patrol, freeing more agents to actually hunt for immigrants slipping into the country.
"This is not about militarizing the border," national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "The president is looking to do everything he can to secure the border. It's what the American people want, it's what he wants to do."
The plan won support from several powerful Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) dismissed the "whining and moaning" of critics and said the National Guard was the only option in the short term.
"We've got to secure our borders," Frist said on CNN's "Late Edition." "We hear from the American people. We've got millions of people coming across that border. First and foremost, secure the border, whatever it takes. Everything else we've done has failed, we've got to face that."
If this is purely about providing support services to the Border Patrol and making them more effective, I'm all for it. But if we're moving the National Guard in with humvees armed with .50 cals, I've got serious concerns about the potential problems.
Ultimately, the borders need to be sealed. But we also have to improve the efficiency of processing would-be legal immigrants so they don't resort to illegal means. We need to increase the caps, improve background checks (in terms of efficiency and effectiveness) on immigrants, and improve the process of assimilation for them once they are here (ie formalize the path to fluency in English and citizenship). It's good that early indications show that Bush will discuss these items as well.
Without these steps, sealing off the border with troops is a Quixotic dream. We need to recognize the economic realities of our immigration situation...
ARC: St Wendeler