One year ago, we were happy to see National Guard members leaving our border with Mexico to return to their regular lives.
That was then. This is now. Dramatic, terrifying violence has erupted and intensified along our border over the past year, as heavily armed drug cartels and human smuggling rings jockey for dominance in their lucrative, criminal trades.
Previous concerns about impoverished immigrants sneaking north for jobs now pale in comparison with the beheadings, gunfights and other barbaric acts occurring regularly just across the border.
Related kidnappings have become commonplace in Phoenix, making Arizona’s capital second only to Mexico City for such crimes.
This scenario is unacceptable – which President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano surely realize.
So today, we echo the plea by Govs. Jan Brewer of Arizona and Rick Perry of Texas; by Republican U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona; and by Democratic U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.
We join them in urging the federal government to send in the National Guard to help batten down our border.
The Posse Comitatus Act, passed after the Civil War, bars the military from involvement in local police matters. An amendment in 1981 permits support of drug interdiction and other law enforcement activities, but not performance of that work.
Nonetheless, when President Bush launched Operation Jump Start in 2006, guardsmen’s work in nonpolice chores – monitoring cameras, building roads and fences, etc. – freed up the Border Patrol to provide more border enforcement.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that since the National Guard left the border last summer, criminal activity there has heated up radically.
As Kyl noted Wednesday, “There is something about the U.S. military that (smugglers) don’t want to mess with.”
Napolitano said Obama is considering the request but questions, “Where would they go, what missions would they perform?”
“In other words,” she added, “don’t just throw something like the National Guard at a place. They have a mission and a job to do.”
Indeed they do. The Guard – the only military branch required by the Constitution – has a duty to protect and defend American interests, often responding to natural disasters and civil emergencies.
U.S.-Mexico border conditions today constitute an emergency of a kind unprecedented in modern times.
Deploy the Guard to support the Border Patrol and show force on our troubled border. They are needed here now more than ever.