White House Non-Committal on Securing Border with Federal Troops
March 12, 2009 - 5:57 PMThe Obama administration said Thursday it would not commit to sending National Guard troops to secure the southern border amid escalating violence from the Mexican drug wars, and even backed away slightly from the president's statement of the day before.
President Barack Obama told regional reporters on Wednesday, “We’re gong to examine whether National Guard deployment would make sense and under what circumstances they would make sense,” according to a report from McClatchy Newspapers. “I think it’s unacceptable if you’ve got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing U.S. citizens.”
The administration is still making a determination on that, said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday.
“The president has enumerated again that our long-term challenges to our many policy decisions around the border are not going to be solved through militarization of the border,” Gibbs told reporters.
Over the last year, about 7,000 people have been killed in the Mexican drug wars, the Associated Press reported, with violence crossing into U.S. border cities. There have been reports of drug cartel members committing violent crimes with adversaries from other cartels in such places as Atlanta, Ga., Phoenix, Ariz., and Birmingham, Ala.
If the U.S. government is spending billions to fight terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, it should defend the borders against terrorist drug gangs, Gov. Rick Perry told Fox News Thursday afternoon. Perry has requested more National Guard troops along the southern border.
“These individuals are not going to stop at Texas. They’re going to go to New Mexico, Arkansas and other states,” Perry said. “This is a national issue that the federal government needs to be involved in and proactive.”
The administration takes the requests of state governments seriously on the matter, Gibbs said. He added that he can think of no more qualified person than Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – a former Arizona governor – to address the matter.
“Obviously, there have been requests for additional National Guard troops to be deployed there based on the escalating violence in Mexico,” Gibbs said. “The president is committed to reviewing those requests along with Secretary Napolitano to give those requests the appropriate airing that they deserve. I don’t know from DHS of a time-line on a decision on that.”
At a House homeland security subcommittee hearing Wednesday, officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection defended the success of protecting the border as acting Commissioner Jayson Ahern said 720,000 illegal aliens were captured in 2008 trying to enter the United States.