Last updated on: 2/5/2009 11:16:00 AM PST
Should the US Military Patrol the Borders?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

New York National Guard members (left) with a Border Patrol agent (right) near the Arizona-Mexico border.
(Source: John Partipilo/Pool-AP; Matt York/AP; Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of the U.S. Congress, stated in its Mar. 23, 2006 report titled "Border Security and Military Support: Legal Authorizations and Restrictions":

"The military generally provides support to law enforcement and immigration authorities along the southern border. Reported escalations in criminal activity and illegal immigration, however, have prompted some lawmakers to reevaluate the extent and type of military support that occurs in the border region...Addressing domestic laws and activities with the military, however, might run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act [U.S. Code, Title 18, § 1385], which prohibits use of the armed forces to perform the tasks of civilian law enforcement unless explicitly authorized. There are alternative legal authorities for deploying the National Guard, and the precise scope of permitted activities and funds may vary with the authority exercised...

The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with preventing the entry of terrorists, securing the borders, and carrying out immigration enforcement functions. The Department of Defense’s (DOD) role in the execution of this responsibility is to provide support to DHS and other federal, state and local (and in some cases foreign) law enforcement agencies, when requested. Since the 1980s, the DOD (and National Guard), as authorized by Congress, has conducted a wide variety of counterdrug support missions along the borders of the United States.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, military support was expanded to include counterterrorism activities. Although the DOD does not have the 'assigned responsibility to stop terrorists from coming across our borders,' its support role in counterdrug and counterterrorism efforts appears to have increased the Department’s profile in border security."

Mar. 23, 2006 - Congressional Research Service (CRS) 
"Border Security and Military Support: Legal Authorizations and Restrictions" (5 KB)  

PRO (yes)

George W. Bush, MBA, President of the United States, stated the following in a May 18, 2006 speech at the Yuma, Arizona Sector Border Patrol Headquarters:

"[T]he need to enforce the border is urgent, and that's why, in coordination with our governors, we're going to send 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed on the southern border.

Now, the reason why I think this strategy is important is because deploying the 6,000 troops to complement the work of the Border Patrol will get immediate results. And it's time to get immediate results...

The Guard is going to support border control efforts. And the Border Patrol, of course, will be in the lead. The Guard will operate surveillance and communications systems. They will install fences and vehicle barriers. They're going to help build patrol roads. They'll analyze intelligence. They will help spot people. But the Border Patrol will be involved in direct law enforcement. The Guard is going to free up agents to be in direct contact with those trying to sneak across. It is -- the Guard is complementary. The Guard makes it easier for the Border Patrol to do its job."

May 18, 2006 - George W. Bush, MBA 

David J. Stoddard, former U.S. Border Patrol Agent, stated in a Feb. 22, 2002 testimony submitted to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources:

"The U.S. Border Patrol simply cannot handle its mission under present restraints. Its job is to protect the American public and preserve the sanctity of our international borders. That cannot be accomplished while our borders are over run by aliens of every nationality and while bureaucrats place unreasonable restrictions on how agents operate.

I urge the immediate deployment of U.S. military troops and equipment on our borders to seal them against those who would cause us harm. This could be only a temporary measure to allow us to regain control to again become a sovereign nation."

Feb. 22, 2002 - David J. Stoddard 

Opinion Research Corporation conducted a poll on May 16-17, 2006 of 1,022 adults nationwide that asked the question: "Would you favor or oppose... sending National Guard troops to the Mexican border to help the border patrol try to prevent people from entering the U.S. illegally". The poll had a +/- 3% margin of error:

64% Favor
32% Oppose
4% Unsure

May 16-17, 2006 - Opinion Research Corporation 

Dana Rohrabacher, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives (R-CA), explained his support for H.R. 648, allowing the U.S. military to patrol U.S. borders, in a May 26, 1998 The Orange County Register staff editorial titled "Mission Creep: A House Bill to Allow the Military to be Used to Patrol the Border is Misguided and Dangerous":

"If nothing else, the primary goal of the federal government is to secure our nation's borders... If it takes military troops to secure our borders, then they should be permitted to do so."

[Editor's note:The amendment passed on May 21, 1998 by a vote of 288 - 132]

May 26, 1998 - Dana Rohrabacher, MA 
"H.R. 648: Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999" (42 KB)  

CON (no)

Chuck Hagel, U.S. Senator (R-NE), in a May 14, 2006 interview on ABC This Week With George Stephanopoulos:

"George Stephanopoulos: ...[O]ne of the proposals [President Bush is] considering, Senator Hagel, is increasing the number of national guard troops being sent to the border...Where do you stand?

Senator Chuck Hagel: ...I think we have to be very careful here. That's not the role of our military. That's not the role of our national guard...

Let's start with the fact do we even have the capacity?... We've got 75% of the equipment of national guards all across this country is in Iraq. We've got national guard members on their second, third and fourth tours in Iraq. We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times. And what in the world are we talking about here sending a national guard that we may not have any capacity to send up to - or down to protect borders? That's not their role. I'll listen to the President but I've got a lot of questions about this."

May 14, 2006 - Chuck Hagel 

The Southwest Workers Union, a grassroots organization, stated in a May 17, 2006 Grassroots Global Justice website article titled "No U.S. Troops on the Mexico-U.S. Border":

"Southwest Workers' Union denounces the proposed placement of military troops along the US-Mexico border. Increasing military presence will only increase violence in our communities. The presence of National Guard or any military troops on the US-Mexico border will serve as an internal ‘occupation army’ and will increase the fear, terror, repression and violence in the impoverished border region."

May 17, 2006 - Southwest Workers Union (SWU) 

Alicia A. Caldwell, MMC, Associated Press Correspondent, quoted two Mexican-Americans in a May 14, 2006 Newsweek article titled "Border Secutiry Plan Worries Texas Town":

"The last time the U.S. military posted troops on the border near this tiny cluster of farms and ranches, an 18-year-old goat herder was shot to death.

Hardly a day passes that Esequiel Hernandez Jr.'s family and neighbors don't think of May 20, 1997, the day a Marine corporal shot and killed him. 'There was no motive for them to (shoot) Esequiel and I worry that the same thing could happen, or worse,' his grandfather, 79-year-old Valerio Pando, said in Spanish.

Dianna Valenzuela, a 54-year-old farmer who lives in the area and knows the Hernandez family, said bringing troops back to the border in any capacity is a recipe for disaster. 'Wherever the military is, they are trained to shoot first and ask questions later, Valenzuela said."

May 14, 2006 - Alicia Caldwell, MMC 

Jorge Calderón, a Senator from Mexico, is quoted by Andrea Becerril in a June 12, 1999 La Jornada article titled "Enviar Soldados, Acto Ominoso de Washington: Calderón" or "To Send Soldiers, an Ominous Act of Washington: Calderón":

"[T]he agreement of the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize the militarization of the border with Mexico is 'an ominous act' that would aggravate the tensions between both countries... observed Jorge Calderón, head of the international sections of the PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution] in the Senate...

'Until the authorities of the United States try to reduce the drug addiction in their territory, no militarization is going to be effective...

T]he assignment of members of the American army to the border with Mexico is an act of pressure and intimidation that has nothing to do with combating drug trafficking, but with the Washington policy of interventionism toward other nations.'

[Editor's note: This article was translated from Spanish by]

June 12, 1999 - Andrea Becerril 
Jorge Calderón