How Will National Guard Impact Border Security?
Friday, May 28, 2010
What will sending the National Guard to the border accomplish? We discuss the decision to do this now.
GLORIA PENNER (Host): Well, this week it was announced that President Obama is planning to send up to 1200 National Guard troops to the southwest border to combat drug smuggling. The Guard will be in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Reaction was as widespread as the geography. Vicente, let’s start with the official response from Mexican President Felipe Calderon to the president’s decision. What did Felipe Calderon have to say?
VICENTE CALDERON (Editor, tijuanapress.com): Well, I think they are giving them the benefit of the doubt. You just have to remember that they just came from a meeting when Calderon went to the White House and they were having a very fairly honest discussion, I would say, at least with what we were able – the public, we were able to see. And I think they’re giving them the benefit of the doubt because they think that this must be an effort of Obama’s policy to try to give something to the Republicans to be able to get eventually to immigration reform. And this issue, the militarizing the border, the way it’s seen in Mexico, it has a long history. The advocates of the rights of the immigrants on this side of the border have been warning us about the efforts of the U.S. government of militarizing the border and they were – have been very adamant against that. When you see more troops, even when the Mexican media doesn’t understand that the National Guard is really the army or the other arm of – per se of the U.S. forces, they take this very badly. So for them, in general, the perception—not the president—I think in general the public perception in Mexico is that this is just adding insult to injury after what we were seeing on Arizona.
PENNER: Well, I think the issue is why the national troops are called up to go down there in the first place. What is it they’re going down there for? And I’m not quite sure that people are really clear on this. I want to ask our listeners about it. Number one, how do you feel about sending 1200 National Guard troops to the border and, number two, what do you think their mission should be, because that seems to be somewhat unclear. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. That’s really the issue at this point, I think, JW. I mean, it’s true that it’s expected that the National Guard will stop drug smuggling across the border for some. Others say it will stop illegal immigration. What’s the purpose of this?
JW AUGUST (Managing Editor, KGTV 10News): The purpose of the guard is a support position. They’re not going to be walking the border with guns to shoot people coming across. They’re to fill in some of the blanks and let the BP, the Border Patrol, do the work that they have been trained for. I won’t go in – Well, I’ll just leave it at that.
PENNER: Don’t leave it at that.
AUGUST: I’m so ticked off about this. Well, first off, I understand how Arizona feels, I definitely do. I don’t want people coming across the border, druggies or illegal immigrants. At the same time, the governor in Arizona signed – proposing the bill, it’s not become effective yet, is all political. It’s just a political game. I think it’s racist. I think there’s a lot of things going on here. It’s very interesting that the Republicans not involved in election are not saying anything about this law but those that are fighting for their lives like John McCain are all of a sudden going further and further right and they’re, you know, don’t, you know, supporting her – the bill. And, you know…
CALDERON: But we see that all the time.
CALDERON: I mean, that’s the problem with the immigration issue. McCain is asking for not 1200 but 6000 soldiers or National Guard elements along the border. And I just want to clarify. When I said that the Mexican authorities are giving the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt, it is because they are saying public – even the Baja Governor, José Guadalupe Osuna, says if they’re going to be fighting drugs, that’s good. If they’re going to be dealing with immigration, that’s very, very bad. And we have to keep in mind, and even if they are only for support activities, remember when – I can’t remember whether it was exactly in Arizona or in Texas when the last time we saw the National Guard, we have the incident of a shepherd being killed, an innocent bystander, a rancher working in there, was killed by one of the National Guards’ element.
AUGUST: Well, that’s the Bush administration. Even the Bush administration people will say about the call up, those guys should not be, you know, their job is support. I don’t think the American people would understand the consequences for us to put them up there and to shoot people coming across the border.
CALDERON: But it’s a cosmetic thing because they are seeing that the federal government is sending the troops to the border and that would – that’s at least my perception that they will feel that things – something has been done.
PENNER: I want to get it back down to local and then I’ll go to our callers. Many people want to speak to us. Do you think, Lorie, that with the National Guard in sight along the border, San Diegans will feel more comfortable about crossing southward into Tijuana, Rosarito Beach, the places they’ve kind of been avoiding lately, for shopping or vacation, recreation? Do you think having the National Guard there gives a sense of security?
LORIE HEARN (Executive Director/Editor, Watchdog Institute): I think the National Guard there gives people a sense of security. I think it will. Whenever you have a military or police force standing tall, I think people will think somehow that means they are safer. Whether that’s going to encourage them to go south, I don’t know. The National Guard isn’t operating in Mexico, they’re operating in the United States. One thing I’d like to say is I think the timing of this, of course, is so fascinating and as Vicente talks about, they’re all being political. Border crossings are – border crossing apprehensions are down. They have been down substantially. So it makes it even more fascinating that we now need this additional reinforcement in terms of people at the border when we’ve had such a decrease in the numbers of people coming across from Mexico.
PENNER: Well, we’ve opened up the subject, now I’d like to hear what our listeners have to say about it. And we’re going to start with Enrique Morones from Point Loma. Enrique, welcome to Editors Roundtable.
ENRIQUE MORONES (Caller, Point Loma): Gloria, how you doing?
ENRIQUE: I was just in Mexico City. I was with President Calderon and President Obama and it’s quite a turn from what happened, you know, just recently to send the National Guard which I believe is a total mistake. The continued militarization of the border has proven to be a failure in the past. And the case that Vicente was talking about was 1997 when this kid Hernandez was shot by a Marine across the border. But the National Guard’s supporting the Border Patrol, a lot of it is perception. And we really need to be focusing on this humane immigration reform because like I told President Obama, every day we don’t have it, two people die. So sending the National Guard to placate the far right is – I think it’s just a huge mistake, just like what’s happening right now with the bill in Arizona. We’re all heading to Arizona tonight to protest tomorrow and the thing that we’re protesting is the fact that not only the police but any city or government official can use their own judgment if somebody looks suspicious. So these types of situations, the racial profiling and the National Guard to continue demand for drugs by the U.S. market really is is really hurting this entire issue, and by putting the Guard on there it seems like Mexico’s the only one at fault. Both countries—both countries—are at fault. Both countries need to work on these solutions. And the wall the National Guard – has only led to 10,000 people dying, and those people that are dying crossing the desert have no line to get into. There’s – That’s why we need immigration for them. There’s no line for them.
PENNER: Okay. Thank you very much, Enrique. And let me turn now to Vicente for reaction.
CALDERON: I think, I mean, he’s right in the sense that there is not – these are desperate – There’s nothing that these Guards will solve because the real reason why we have so low level of arrest is because is not coming because they are not finding jobs here. It’s that the economy issue, the really base for their staying in Mexico. But I think that there’s – I see, and I’m probably too optimistic in this, I see a different level of talking and dialogue between the federal government and the U.S. government. I think the Mexican authorities are seeing that Obama is giving something to the Republicans to be able to order the step two of this dance that they are going to be doing.
PENNER: Enrique, one question. 76%, I think, is the latest number I saw of Arizonians are – want the law that is just – that – I’m sorry, did I say Enrique? I meant Vicente.
PENNER: Vicente, 76% of the people in Arizona say, yes, they’re for the law, and something like 63% of people in the United States like that law. So I’m just wondering how we can say that it’s just a matter of some political persuasion that’s pushing us in that direction when it looks as though pop – it’s a popular idea.
CALDERON: Well, they do have the problem because the federal government sent them them, partly from San Diego. In the nineties, they were coming through the San Diego and Tijuana and we just sent them to the east. Well, the federal government sent them to the east to more difficult areas. That’s why we are seeing the problems now in Arizona and not here in San Diego. It’s basically the same. What it means is that they have not been able to do – to make any progress dealing with the immigration issue and they need to sit down and be more realistic. Wayne Cornelius, formerly from the UCSD, has done extensive, very good job and what they are showing you is that none of these efforts to improve enforcement on the border were able to stop or diminish the number of people coming across. Was the economy eventually what make them think twice to risk their life for – to go to look for a job that they are not finding in this side of the border.
PENNER: Many people want to talk to us about this issue and I’d like to talk to as many of you as possible. So when I call on you now, could you please make your response brief so we can get in as many as possible? And thank you, Enrique. Lucy, you’re up next. Lucy from San Diego.
LUCY (Caller, San Diego): Hi. Thank you so much for taking my call.
LUCY: So I’m going to preface this by saying that my family’s lived in San Diego for almost 100 years. But I spent 14 years living in Japan, and there’s two aspects that I think that some members of your roundtable are not aware of. First of all, I think that every country has the right to protect its borders from illegal immigration. Every other country in the world, including Mexico, does that. And I think that there is this leftist attitude that we shouldn’t protect our borders at all, that we should just open them completely. And I think that the majority of Americans are tired of supporting illegal immigrants in our hospitals, our education system, our prisons. We are tired of it. We are fair, we are hardworking people, but we’re tired of illegal immigration. And I do believe our federal government has totally let down everyone by not having a correct and appropriate immigration system that would alleviate some of this problem similar to the system that’s in Canada. But I think that the majority of people in the media are completely out of touch with how the majority of Americans feel and that’s…
PENNER: Okay, let’s turn to our investigative re – editor here, Lorie Hearn, and get her comment on your opinion. Lucy, thank you so much for calling. Again, I said, I need brief responses because we’re running out of time. Go ahead, Lorie.
HEARN: Lucy, I really appreciate your very articulate points. I think – I don’t think anyone at this roundtable would suggest that the United States does not have the prerogative to protect its borders from illegal immigration. I think the issue is how should it be done? And I think that what we’re saying is that there are a lot of these issues are becoming very focused on one kind of solution when, really, it’s a much bigger problem.
PENNER: What solution are we focusing on?
HEARN: Well, we’re focusing right now on putting – on militarizing the border and putting National Guard down there and building a heavier fence, a virtual fence. I mean, I think we’re focused on certain particular solutions rather than the big picture as I think…
HEARN: …Vicente had been talking about a few minutes ago.
PENNER: So there are many aspects of it.
PENNER: Not only securing the border but also dissuading people from coming across and also figuring out what to do with those who are already here. So there are many aspects.
HEARN: Right, right.
PENNER: Yeah, I think Lucy was certainly talking about one.
PENNER: She wants to see the border protected, and not only Lucy but President Obama says he wants to see the border protected.
AUGUST: And I – just one more thing I’d add. This is not 1960 and we are not an East and West Berlin. We can’t build a wall to keep people out. That is not realistic.
PENNER: Okay, well, we have many more comments on this and we’re going to take them as soon as we get back after a short break. This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.
PENNER: This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner. At the roundtable today we have Vicente Calderon from Tijuana Press and Lorie Hearn from the Watchdog Institute, from 10News, JW August. And we have you and your calls, and we are talking about 1200 National Guards planned to be sent to the border, getting your opinions on that and about the whole border policy in general. We’ve had a lot of calls but now we’re going to have David from Carmel Valley. David, you’re on with the editors.
DAVID (Caller, Carmel Valley): Hey, good morning, editors. Hey, I just wanted to say that, firstly, I’m not in favor of the fence but I think a lot of the information the editors are putting out is not quite accurate. Tom Ashbrook from NPR had a great one-hour story on this with just some incredible experts about a week ago, and they were all pretty liberal but they did say, without a doubt, that the illegal immigration across the Arizona border has shrank incredibly since 2005 when these laws were enacted. Now what it did was, it’s just wackomo effect, it stuck them over in California and Texas. But across Arizona, the illegal immigration from 2005 has shrank a lot. Thanks a lot.
AUGUST: Well, yeah.
PENNER: So David said it has shrunk and is that – is that accurate, JW?
AUGUST: Well, all I know is all along the border sector, it’s half. It’s 559,000 apprehensions, I think, as opposed to 1.2 million ten years ago.
PENNER: And what do we…
AUGUST: So it has shrunk.
PENNER: It has shrunk.
AUGUST: But still, 559,000 is a lot of folks.
CALDERON: He thinks that all of them are going through Arizona probably. No, I’m just kidding, but what I mean is probably they have decreased from the number that they have in the previous years. You have to remember that it was from 1994 when the immigration authorities began pushing them to the east, now the Sonora, the State of Sonora on the Mexican side, with – borders with Arizona, are the ones seeing the increase. But he may be right, I mean, in the sense that we’ve seen an increase of cases of people coming across through Tecate that are paying plus $2,000 to be cross to the border to the coyote…
PENNER: To be smuggled, right?
CALDERON: …to be smuggled, yes.
PENNER: By the coyotes.
CALDERON: That’s a big increase of almost 70% from the last year when it was already expensive.
CALDERON: Plus, $2,300 was one of the cases that I saw last week.
PENNER: So, Vincente, when we look at it, maybe the total number hasn’t changed much, it’s just where they’re coming in and where they’re staying.
CALDERON: I think it’s the numbers have been decreasing due to the economy situation, the situation in the U.S. but it proves that pretty much they’re focusing in Arizona because that’s where the main chunk of this illegal immigrants are coming through. And just to be clear, I’m not advocating to shoot people, the no borders policy, that you can see from some groups. I think the U.S. have all the right to protect their borders, I just think they are facing – trying to solve with that a much bigger problem would have to be, which is basically a market problem. There’s a demand of labor on this side of the border, not met with the ones that are inside, and there’s a need of these jobs in the Mexican side. They should see this in a more realistic way and not trying to give people, the public, an aspirin for a very serious ill.
PENNER: All right, well, let’s hear now from Sam in Pendleton. Sam, I think what you’re going to discuss probably fits right into what we were just alluding to. Go ahead, Sam.
SAM (Caller, Camp Pendleton): Yes, I think that everybody’s missing the major problem here. And the major problem is a simple supply and demand issue. There is lots of demand for jobs and cheap labor here in the U.S. and Mexico has the supply. What we need to do…
PENNER: Excuse – excuse me, Sam. Isn’t that – Sam, Sam, isn’t that what Vicente was just talking about?
SAM: …criminalize the people who want to feed their family.
SAM: As long as we tighten up our laws and govern small businesses or employers who choose to hire illegal aliens because, frankly, it’s more profitable, you will never abolish the problem.
PENNER: Okay, thank you, Sam. And that’s exactly what Vicente was saying. So it’s almost as though you heard what Vicente said and you decided to say it again in your own words. But that’s really the point, isn’t it? Lorie Hearn.
HEARN: It seems to me that is the point. I mean, it is – it’s a much bigger issue and people want to feel safe. I mean, that’s the fact of the matter, and people want to feel like something is being done. And they look to the government to do something. The problem is, because the big issue is not truly being addressed, they glom onto these individual solutions that they think will maybe make them feel better or help a bit.
AUGUST: Or even individual words which people campaigning love to use, like I – there’s a certain ad running today on television with the word ‘amnesty’ on the screen. Amnesty, death panels, they’re like death panels, amnesty. It’s a bad thing, this amnesty. Why don’t you discuss the issue thoroughly and understand amnesty is not a bad word but they’re making it a bad word and they’re – and constant pounding the barrage by these ads as if taking a position on amnesty is somehow you’re – you’re for open borders or you don’t care about the American public or you’re some kind of a weak-minded liberal because you don’t – because you support amnesty. And, to me, it’s just outrageous. It’s the slogan thing. We’re back to the Bush year. One war somehow is policy. That’s not the way to run a government, that’s not the way to handle an issue as complicated as this. You can’t have – you can’t do immigration reform without securing the borders and you can’t secure the borders without – I mean, without having immigration reform. That’s it.
PENNER: And that’s from JW August of 10News.
AUGUST: No, no, that was Lorie Hearn.
PENNER: Well, gentlemen and callers, on that we are going to have to switch subjects or we’ll never have time for this next issue which is the issue that we’ve assigned, or has been assigned, to JW August.