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Border Patrol union leader says agents are excited about National Guard assistance

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer stands guard as pedestrians enter the United States at the San Ysidro port of entry on Monday in San Ysidro, California. The National Guard troops being sent to the U.S.-Mexico border won’t serve primarily in frontline roles, but will fill administrative and support gaps left by severe understaffing within Customs and Border Protection, a Border Patrol labor union executive said. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)\n

Border patrol agents are excited to have help from National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Judd told Government Executive that the National Guard troops won’t serve primarily in frontline roles, but will fill administrative and support gaps left by severe understaffing within Customs and Border Protection.

The National Border Patrol Council is a labor union that represents the border patrol staff. Judd is a former border patrol agent who served for 20 years.

Staffing issues

The need for National Guard troops supporting border patrol operations doesn’t stem from a desire to militarize the border or enact extremely aggressive security initiatives; rather, Customs and Border Protection is simply in desperate need of bodies.

CBP is about 2,000 agents short of the required minimum operating force of the agency and lost more agents in fiscal 2017 than it hired.

Sending in reinforcements

President Donald Trump plans to send 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops from nearby states to support CBP operations.

For comparison, former President Barack Obama sent 1,200 to the border in 2010, and former President George W. Bush sent 6,000 in 2006.

What will they be doing?

Judd said the guardsmen will likely serve as administrative and support staff, filling control room or surveillance camera monitoring roles while freeing up actual border patrol agents to go to the front lines.

From an NBPC statement:

Many Border Patrol Agents perform duties such as monitoring cameras, monitoring sensor activations, conducting surveillance on “sky boxes” or other observation posts, operating scope vehicles, etc.  These are surveillance activities and by deploying the National Guard to take over these and other activities, it will free up law enforcement resources to patrol the border and make arrests.  This action will increase the certainty of detection and apprehension.

National Guard troops won’t be able to personally make any arrests or seizures. They can only identify illegal immigrants and relay information to border patrol.

Are there potential downsides?

According to Government Executive, National Guard officials worry that deploying their troops to the border gives off the image that the border has been militarized, and also limits availability of guardsmen for other duties.

CBP officials have concerns that using temporary assignees could negatively impact long-term border security planning.

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