Democrat Homeland Security Panel Chairman: ‘I Want To See A Little More Than 1,200’ National Guard Troops at Border

By Nicholas Ballasy and Edwin Mora | May 27, 2010 | 7:31 PM EDT

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.)

( – Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, echoed the view of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday, telling that the 1,200 National Guard troops President Barack Obama is deploying to the U.S.-Mexico border are not enough to secure the region.
Both Cuellar and Boehner, however, noted that sending the Guard troops is a good start to securing the border. 
On Capitol Hill, asked Cuellar, “Do you think the 1,200 troops that President Obama decided to send to the border are enough to secure the 2,000-mile-long border?”
Cuellar said, “I think it’s a start with 1,200. I know that Senator [John] McCain [R-Ariz.] is asking for 6,000. At least [the] president started out with 1,200. We got to keep in mind this is a 2,000, almost a 2,000-mile border.”

Cuellar continued,  “Personally, I want to see a little more than 1,200. How we get there I guess is going to depend on how much we appropriate and decisions between Homeland [Security], the National Guard and the White House also and, of course, Congress.”
Boehner echoed Rep. Cuellar’s comments when asked him if the 1,200 additional troops were enough to secure the border.
“I think it’s a good first step, but I’m not sure that it’s a sufficient number of troops in order to secure our border, which is what the American people want -- and they want it now,” said Boehner.
Senator McCain’s amendment to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border was defeated Thursday, 51 to 46, in the Democrat-controlled Senate. It needed 60 votes for approval.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Apr. 27, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said  the U.S.-Mexico border "is as secure now as it has ever been.” On May 26, she said the National Guard reinforcement at the border will help.

"I do believe what we need is a strong immigration border strategy that includes boots on the ground and technology and infrastructure," said Napolitano. "There’s no one silver bullet, as it were. But it will be very helpful. It will be a force multiplier for civilian law enforcement at the border." 
President Obama announced on May 25 his decision to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the southwest border.
The president also indicated that he would be requesting $500 million to boost border security.
On Thursday, May 27, Obama indicated that the National Guard troops would only be charged with providing border authorities with “intelligence” rather than catching drug smugglers and illegal immigrants trying to cross the border.
“What we find is, is that National Guard persons can help on intelligence, dealing with both drug and human trafficking along the borders,” Obama said at Thursday’s press conference. “They can relieve border guards so that the border guards then can be in charge of law enforcement in those areas. So there are a lot of functions that they can carry out that helps leverage and increase the resources available in this area.”
"They can relieve border guards so that guards can be in charge of law enforcement," he added.
Cuellar predicted that sending 1,200 troops to the border would be similar to what was done under President George W. Bush as a transitional step towards upgrading federal authorities already in charge of monitoring the southwest border.
“I think we’re going to do the same thing we did under President Bush where it’s a transitional period as we hire more border patrol, put more ICE agents and other federal officials down there,” said Cuellar.
He went on to point out that the number of border patrol agents “have more than doubled,” adding, “One of these days we got to ask border patrol: ‘How much is enough?’”
Cuellar also said, “So we don’t have to send the National Guard down there because that’s -- you know they have different missions that, that they have -- but again, that decision has to be decided by Congress as to how much we’re going to, you know, how many guards we’re going to go ahead and fund and appropriate to get down there.”