Rep. Kerry Bentivolio on Friday made a novel proposal for stepping up enforcement of the southern U.S. border at a relatively inexpensive price — letting the National Guard hold its annual two-week drills along the border.
In an interview with TheBlaze, Bentivolio — a National Guardsman himself — said guardsmen at each state hold two week drills each year around the country. According to the Michigan Republican, it would be an easy task to let them hold these drills at certain spots along the southern border.
Texas Department of Safety Troopers patrol on the Rio Grand along the U.S.-Mexico border. Texas wants the National Guard to help patrol the border, and a Michigan lawmaker has a new idea for making that happen. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)
"We could rotate National Guards from state national guard units along the border and secure it for very, very little money," he said.
Bentivolio stressed that some National Guard units have been deployed overseas and have combat experience, and thus could help apprehend illegal immigrants as they try to cross. "They know how to apprehend and treat prisoners because they have experience in the combat zone," he said.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has told Congress that using the National Guard would be an expensive option for securing the border. But Bentivolio noted that National Guard funding is already approved as part of the Defense Department spending bill, and that the only major expense would be getting them to the border.
He also said the plan could work without requiring legislation from Congress.
"The governors can authorize it," he said. "It's a matter of paperwork and getting the right approvals."
Bentivolio said he supports the effort by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to use the National Guard to help restore order at the border.
Bentivolio was one of a handful of House members who visited El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras over the weekend. He said his trip verified claims that many of the unaccompanied minors are fleeing gang and drug violence.
"The impression I got was El Salvador was basically a country on the brink of anarchy because of the gang violence," he said.
The combination of drug violence and the false promise of amnesty for children has allowed human traffickers to prosper by selling people the promise of freedom in the United States.
"It just fuels the argument for the coyotes to say, come to America, they're not going to punish you, find the American dream," he said. "And that's the problem. It should be a dream for the Americans versus just the American dream."
He said that in all three countries, he saw centers aimed at holding people who are returned to their home country from the United States, but said all of them were empty.
"So I have to question a lot of things they're telling me," he said. "I don't really think their heart's into allowing us to return their citizens. I don't think they really want that. I think they prefer to export their problem to America."
But Bentivolio stressed that as bad as things might be in Central America, there's little choice for the U.S. but to ensure the prompt return of people trying to enter the United States illegally.
"My constituents want the border secure, and no amnesty," he said. "You violated our laws the first step you came into this country illegally. You're not going to get amnesty, there's just no way.
"You want to come to this country, get in line. Get behind the line. We're not going to reward you for violating the law in the first place."