Republicans Press for Stepped-Up Security at Mexican Border

7/21/14
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
7/21/14:

Gov. Perry Poised to Activate 1,000 Troops in South Texas.

Republicans grappling with the surge of Central American migrants entering the country this year have lined up behind a common goal: ratcheting up security along the Southern border.

Both on and off Capitol Hill, Republicans have called for a more muscular approach to border security in response to the recent influx of migrants, returning to a top priority during the broader debate over rewriting immigration laws. On Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he would deploy 1,000 state National Guard troops to try to deter criminal activity by Mexican drug cartels and human smugglers in South Texas.

“I won’t stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor,” said Mr. Perry in announcing an action applauded by Republican lawmakers.

Democrats and some policy specialists say the GOP, in focusing on border security, is not directly addressing the current crisis. Most of the unaccompanied children and families entering the country are not trying to elude authorities, but quickly turning themselves in under the belief that they will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

“Many of us believe that the border is more secure today than it has ever been,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the New York office of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that employs scholars from both political parties. “Enforcement is not the answer to everything.”

The number of Border Patrol agents has more than doubled in the past decade, and apprehensions have fallen since the heyday of illegal immigration more than a decade ago. Even without new border-security measures from Congress, the current flow of migrants from Central America appears to be decelerating.

Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. But in recent weeks, the number apprehended has fallen, according to figures provided by the White House.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said the administration believes the decline is due to its “efforts to work with Central American leaders to publicize the dangers of the journey and reinforce that apprehended migrants are ultimately returned to their home countries,” as well as seasonal changes in border crossings.

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has called for weeks for the National Guard to be deployed to the border. A group of GOP lawmakers, preparing legislation in response to President Barack Obama’s call for emergency funding to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors, are also expected to recommend sending in the National Guard to help free up Border Patrol agents who are caring for and processing the migrant children.

“The Border Patrol can’t do the job they were on the border to do because they’re taking care of children,” Rep. Kay Granger (R., Texas), head of the GOP working group, said in an interview.

“They’re trained in warfare,” Mr. Lucio, a Democrat, said of the National Guard troops. “I don’t know what they’re really going to be doing.”

The House GOP legislation also will recommend that the Border Patrol be allowed to apprehend people on federal lands, Ms. Granger said. Currently, environmental and other restrictions sometimes limit Border Patrol access.

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