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California To Join Guard Border Mission, But With Conditions

April 12, 2018 1:51 p.m.

California To Join Guard Border Mission, But With Conditions


Debbie Kang, visiting scholar, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego

Related Story: California To Join Guard Border Mission, But With Conditions


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our talk today, Governor Jerry Brown has agreed to call up California National Guard troops in accordance with Trump's border enforcement request. It is not clear how many of the 400 additional personnel will actually be sent to the border. Brown said he would deploy the troops to assist in targeting transnational criminal gangs making it quote crystal-clear in his letter to the administration that the servicemembers would not take part in enforcing federal immigration law. Trump is the third president in a row to call for additional National Guard troops at the border. But the effectiveness of those deployments is not entirely clear. Joining me is Debbie Kang. She is a visiting research fellow at the Center for comparative immigration studies at UC San Diego. And author of the book the INS on the line, making immigration law on the U.S. Mexico border. Debbie, welcome to the program.
>> Thank you for having me.
>> In the past two in ministrations, why did President George W. Bush and Barack Obama call for additional National Guard troops at the border?
>> There are a variety of reasons for both presidents, for George Bush, he was building up the border patrol, there are specific customs and this was an ongoing response to the 9/11 terrorist attack. And he felt in order to give that unit time to build up its forces, he needed to employ the National Guard to assist in border monitoring operations. Per President Obama, he was also concerned about undocumented immigration and facing a lot of pressure from Republicans in the southwestern states. This was about 2010 and as you may recall, Arizona had just passed SP sent 70. So, that's another moment in American nativism and this again was putting pressure on Obama so he felt that he needed to do something about undocumented immigration. And hence he deploy the National Guard. Now for both presidents, they were also very interested in passing comprehensive immigration reform. This obviously did not happen for both presidents, but they both felt that in deploying the National Guard, this would help them to achieve their immigration agendas.
>> For those two respective reasons, that the presidents sent out the National Guard, where the National Guard deployments successful?
>> The general consensus is that they were not. In general, both deployments helped the border patrol to survey the border, remotely. And they also, assisted in the pursuit of drug smugglers. When you look at the actual figures, the proportion of undocumented immigrants, that were apprehended, and the amount of drugs that were found, they constitute a very small proportion.
>> Is this call from President trump different from the previous deployments?
>> It is different. So far, as the media has been reporting and as the border patrol itself has been reporting, the apprehensions of undocumented immigrants has fallen to an all-time low. For fiscal year 2017, apprehensions fell to around 300,000. And this is the lowest number since 1971.
>> So, your point being that there is no reason?
>> There is no clear reason. Trumps allegations that there is a crisis of undocumented immigration along the border, it doesn't seem to be borne out by the actual numbers.
>> Now, Governor Jerry Brown has made it clear that the California National Guard will not help build the wall, or as he says round up women and children or enforce immigration law. But will the National Guard be doing any of that enforcement anywhere along the border in any state?
>> No. And when you look at the department of defense set of instructions, that was issued as part of this implementation of trumps border, the National Guard is not permitted to enforce domestic laws, it's not permitted to interface with migrants in any way. Or enforce the immigration law. It's also not impaired to possess weapons, it's only impaired to use weapons in cases where the guard fails at self-defense and it might be necessary. There are real limits here on this operation.
>> What kind of assistance will the guards provide then?
>> I think as in the past, operations under both the Bush and the Obama administration, the guards will be surveying the border remotely. You will not necessarily have guardsmen on the lines, standing next to a border patrol officer, writing in the Jeeps with them and whatnot. They may be in a building somewhere, watching a computer screen you know, that monitors the cameras that are lined up along the border. They also, will be helping to repair fences. And some of the roads along the border and again, this is very similar to what happened especially under the Bush administration. They will not be engaged in this kind of active policing of the border.
>> If this sounds to you like more of a political gesture, then an actual boost to border protection, why do you think the border patrol itself has greeted this announcement so positively?
>> I think for many years the border patrol has been chomping at the bit. To enforce the nation's immigration laws in the way that they see best. And, we have heard statements from the head of the border patrol union, based here in San Diego, expressing as much, a report just came out, in the Philadelphia Inquirer about enforcement and, it is highly aggressive in nature, and what seems to be happening once again is the border patrol feels like the Trump administration has given them free reign to enforce immigration laws and in a highly aggressive manner.
>> So apparently the agreement for additional guard troops and September 30, what if anything do you think can be accomplished on the border in that six month period.?
>> I'm not sure I can be accomplished, especially when you look at past presidents. If you look at what happened under the bush and my Obama administration. They were just sitting around and in some cases you know, they did repair the infrastructure, and that might have been useful. In the state of California, they may assist the current operations, that the National Guard conducts with respect transnational crime. It's really not clear. Exactly, what will be accomplished. On the other hand, what is clear is that this will cost a lot of money and again, past presidents did the same. That two-year cooperation costed millions. Currently the state of Texas is saying that their operation will cost at least $1 million a month. So, it's very expensive.
>> I have been speaking with Debbie Kang, visiting research fellow at UC San Diego. Debbie, thank you.
>> Thank you.