Militarization of Border Will be Temporary

President Bush has told Mexico’s president that a program to use the military to fight illegal aliens will a temporarily stop-gap to allow the Border Patrol to grow.

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.”

Our inability to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the border virtually at will is longstanding. The impact of augmenting the border patrol for some fixed period, even if relatively effective, would end the second forces are withdrawn unless the Border Patrol is beefed up to a commensurate level in the interim.

Apparently, that’s the plan:

White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley went on television Sunday to emphasize that no final decision on sending the troops had been made. He said the idea was to “provide a bit of a stopgap as the Border Patrol build up their capacity to deal with this challenge. “This is something that’s actually already being done. It’s not about militarization of the border,” Hadley said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

I’m not sure if “irony” is the right word but I find the parallels between this and Iraq somewhat amusing. Still, how long can it possibly take to train effective Border Patrol agents? The initial training course is 19 weeks. It’s not like arresting unarmed migrants is as difficult as counterinsurgency, so one would think we could pair newly trained officers with veteran officers and put them to work. So, why take the ridiculous step of militarizing the border as a stop-gap?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    You have to find people who are willing to work in the god-forsaken areas along the border.

  2. Jim Henley says:

    “As they stand up we’ll be getting closer to the first Tuesday in November!”

  3. Bill says:

    Its not just the 19 week training course, you realize. Its the 6-9 months to post vacancies, select applicants and get them security clearance before they start the 19 week training course.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Bill: Sure. But we’ve been debating this for months. Unless, as Bryan suggests, they’re having difficulty recruiting, they could have done this already.

  5. Fornl says:

    So, why take the ridiculous step of militarizing the border as a stop-gap?

    This is further evidence of Bush’s delusion and the fact that he is cloistered from the reality of basic policy decisions. He has never exhibited any seriousness as a public official and falls back on policy apparatuses that do more to bolster his image than to actually solve pressing problems.

    This is a desperate and pathetic attempt to bolster his status as his presidency continues to self-destruct.

  6. Tim Vincent says:

    I voted for Bush twice. Realistically there was no other choice if ones major concern is national security; BUT I was never under the illusion that the man is competent.

    This latest mess with immigration illustrates the point: terrible staff work, tin-ear and now assuring the president of Mexico that we really won’t stop his country’s continuing invasion of our southwest.

    I really feel stuck:
    Weak, pandering, often anti-American Democrats.
    Weak, stupid, clueless Republicans.

  7. DaveD says:

    My position is beginning to pretty much mirror Tim’s. Why Bush feels so obliged to cover for Vincente Fox’s economic laziness is beyond me.

  8. legion says:

    Maybe I’ve missed it in all the hand-waving in the articles, but has anyone actually said what the heck ‘temporary’ means in this context? Because unless I’m missing something very big here, all these Guard troops will have to be federalized to do this mission. How long will they be there? Will they be camped out in Field Conditions, or living in leftover FEMA trailers? Because I _know_ neither the Army nor the Nat’l Guard Bureau have this in their budget – they’re going to have to ask Congress for another supplemental to cover this operation. I expect Bush will lean heavily on the bully pulpit tonight, to pressure Congress into not asking too many questions when he hands them a blank check to sign for this…

  9. Topeka Satchel says:

    Just trying to think out of the box…
    –Maybe some stand-up Iraqi troops could come over here for on-the-job training.

    –Where are the United Nations Peacekeeper when they’re needed?

  10. JPSobel says:

    A main reason for using the National Guard as a stopgap measure is to discourage a rush across the border. If the administration were announce, or even try to quietly implement, only a rapid increase in the size of the Border Patrol, many thousands from the south might use the lapse between the announcement and the deployment to move into the US.

  11. anjin-san says:

    If Bush was so concered about border security, why did he cut the border patrol?

    Just wondering…

  12. Hoodlumman says:

    I’m almost convinced that Fox has photographs of Bush with a couple of Tiajuanan hookers on file down in Mexico D.F.


  13. “So, why take the ridiculous step of militarizing the border as a stop-gap?”

    To somewhat satiate the Minutemen and their sympathizers.