Pentagon Exploring Border Control Patrols
Pentagon Exploring Border Control Patrols
Friday May 12, 2006 2:46 AM
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon is looking at ways the
military can help provide more security along the U.S.
southern border, defense officials said Thursday, once
again drawing the nation's armed forces into a
politically sensitive domestic role.
On Capitol Hill on Thursday, the House voted 252-171
to allow Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to
assign military personnel under certain circumstances
to help the Homeland Security Department perform
border security. The House added the provision to a
larger military measure.
Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for
homeland defense, asked officials this week to come up
with options for the use of military resources and
troops - particularly the National Guard - along the
border with Mexico, according to defense officials
familiar with the discussions. The officials, who
requested anonymity because the matter has not been
made public, said there are no details yet on a
The request comes as some Southern lawmakers met this
week with White House strategist Karl Rove for a
discussion that included making greater use of
National Guard troops to shore up border control.
Congress is poised to pass legislation this month that
would call for additional border security, a new guest
worker program and provisions opening the way to
eventual citizenship for many of the estimated 11
million illegal immigrants in the country.
``The Texas delegation is very concerned about the
border and are pushing urgency,'' said Rep. Kevin
Brady, R-Texas, who joined other Texas Republicans in
a meeting with Rove this week. He said Rove was ``very
forthright'' about border projects that Homeland
Security is starting up, its current projects and what
the needs are.
Rep. Ken Marchant, R-Texas, who also attended the
meeting, said the lawmakers left ``very encouraged.''
Currently, the military plays a very limited role
along the borders, but some armed forces have been
used in the past to help battle drug traffickers.
National Guard units, meanwhile, have been used at
time by Southern and Western governors to provide
assistance at border crossings.
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said the military help
``is basically what she has been asking for,''
spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said. Napolitano has been
asking the Pentagon to send more National Guard troops
- but not regular military - to confont illegal
immigration from Mexico. About 170 National Guard
troops are helping in such efforts in the state now.
Defense officials said they have been asked to map out
what military resources could be made available if
needed - including options for using the National
Guard under either state or federal control. The
strategy would also explore the legal guidelines for
use of the military on domestic soil, the officials
The National Guard is generally under the control of
the state governors, but Guard units can be
federalized by the president, such as those sent to
the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Active duty military
cannot be used for law enforcement unless the
president specifically decides to exercise that
Officials wrangled over the use of the active military
during Hurricane Katrina, with some suggesting that
troops be used for law enforcement to quell violence
and looters in New Orleans. There were also
suggestions that Bush federalize the National Guard
there - removing them from state control, but state
officials opposed that proposal. In the end, neither
move was made.
At its peak during Katrina, the military had about
22,000 active-duty troops in the Gulf region, in
addition to about 50,000 National Guard troops
operating under the state governors' command. The
active- duty military provided ships, helicopters,
search-and-rescue aid, evacuations and other
In the aftermath of the hurricane, Bush asked Pentagon
officials to review ways to give the military a bigger
role in responding to major disasters. But officials
are somewhat reluctant to make major changes, leery of
the image of armed military troops patrolling U.S.
Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal
troops are prohibited from performing law enforcement
actions, such as making arrests, seizing property or
searching people. In extreme cases, however, the
president can invoke the Insurrection Act, also from
the Civil War, which allows him to use active-duty or
National Guard troops for law enforcement.
Associated Press writer Suzanne Gamboa contributed to
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