Roughly one week after President Donald Trump announced his plan to deploy National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border, the first troops – primarily from Arizona and Texas, the first two states to comply – have begun deploying in the region. The action from President Trump, which was first mentioned during an entirely unrelated meeting with leaders from the Baltic states, has drawn both praise and heavy criticism.
While some governors, most notably those of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico (all Republicans) have declared their enthusiastic support, and others, such as the Democratic Governor of California, their much more reluctant compliance, a number have spoken out with some concern. These include the Republican Governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, and Kate Brown, the Democratic Governor of Oregon. Many other states, including Alabama, Florida, and Colorado, have yet to decide whether they will be sending troops.
Other sources of opposition to the proposed deployment have been immigration reform groups, a number of Roman Catholic bishops along the border, and, none too surprisingly, the Mexican government. The Mexican Senate, following President Trump’s order, passed a resolution calling on their government to suspend cooperation with the United States on matters of illegal immigration and drug trafficking. According to the nation’s Foreign Secretary, no such suspension of cooperation has yet occurred, but the possibility is being evaluated.
Considering the suddenness of the move, and how drastic the consequences could be, one might assume that there is some crisis on our hands, that drugs and arms and undocumented immigrants are flooding over the border. And yet, according to the data gathered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, illegal crossings of the border are not only low, but are in fact the lowest they’ve been in 46 years. There has been a slight spike in recent months, but according to immigration experts, that roughly mirrors usual seasonal trends. There have also been reports of a ‘caravan’ of migrants headed north from Central America, but that reasoning proves faulty as well; there’s some skepticism over whether they’re even headed for the United States, and, if they were, they would be almost certain to turn themselves over to the Border Patrol. After all, the ultimate goal of these people is asylum in the United States, and they can’t seek asylum if the government doesn’t know they’re there.
Perhaps we can find a clue in many of President Trump’s calls to use military spending to build his border wall, the central promise of his campaign. Progress on securing funding for the wall has stalled, much to the frustration of many of Trump’s supporters, as both the Republican controlled Congress and the Mexican government have repeatedly refused to pay for the project. It doesn’t seem ridiculous to suggest that a move such as this could be an indicator that the president is serious about using military funding for his wall.
Motives aside, the deployment of troops – and the border wall as well – flies in the face of everything we know about how immigration, both legal and illegal, functions. For example, it is a well known reality that the largest source of illegal immigration is not illegal border crossings, but people who cross the border legally on work or travel visas and proceed to remain in the country after their visas expire. It is also well known that drug smuggling, another target of these actions, occurs most frequently at ports of entry – road crossings, ports, and airports – than in the middle of the desert. These places, of course, are already under heavy guard by Customs and Border Protection, and no National Guard troops will be assisting in those areas. So what does the deployment accomplish? At best, it’s a poorly made move that does very little except antagonize our neighbors. At worst, it’s merely a political move designed to please the president’s base, or even worse, an attempt to scare away immigrants from trying to cross a militarized border, legally or otherwise.
All we know for sure is that the deployment and the wall would be expensive, antagonistic to one of our closest allies, and largely useless as anything other than the Republican Party and President Trump keeping up appearances for their supporters.
Chris Flynn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org