Monday, May 15, 2006

Border Guards

Bush is proposing sending several thousand National Guard troops to help secure the Mexican border.

Guarding borders is what militaries do, so I don't worry about the "militarization" of this particular police function.

But the Mexican border is 2,000 miles long. Here's the equation:

6,000 troops รท 2,000 miles = 3 soldiers per mile

No matter what you think about the idea of sending the military to stop illegal immigrants, that adds up to "token effort."

I'm more sympathetic to the "overstretching the military" argument; how long are we going to take Guard troops away from their families and civilian jobs? Having returned from Iraq, will border state troops now face the prospect of being sent to patrol the border? And will this be another example of Bush federalizing Guard units?

This is a temporary deployment, which helps address that issue, but it also means it's just a temporary solution -- more smoke than fire.

UPDATE: Bush's national address on the subject is encapsulated here, with the White House transcript here.

Nothing really new, other than ending the "catch and release" policy -- in which non-Mexican illegal immigrants are allowed to go free until their deportation hearing. Most (surprise, surprise) never show up again. That seems sensible.

It won't be cheap; the change will require new prisons to hold arrested immigrants until they get a deportation hearing, and justice requires that those hearings be held fairly quickly. And it's strictly small-bore, a tactical change.

The big bore stuff looks problematic. My own perspective is here.

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