'Fill the Gaps': Trump Sends National Guard Troops to Stem Border 'Crisis'
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President Trump has signed a directive ordering National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border, saying illegal crossings into the United States have reached a "point of crisis."
It was the mass movement of a convoy of Central Americans traveling through Mexico to the US and frustrations over a lack of congressional funding of a border wall that led him to authorize tougher measures.
The president says the US has had "very bad laws for the border" and, in addition to building a wall, he wants to do something right away.
"We're going to be guarding our border with the military. That's a big step. We really haven't done that before, certainly not very much before," Trump said.
Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent National Guard troops to the border, but only in a limited role – providing surveillance and support for the US Border Patrol. Anything beyond that would require congressional approval. Federal law prohibits use of active duty troops for law enforcement inside the US.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says National Guard troop numbers are still to be worked out with southern border state governors, but some guardsmen could be in place as early as today.
"It will be strong. It will be as many as is needed to fill the gaps that we have today," explained Nielsen.
Border state governors, not the federal government, will control the Guard in their states, and border state governors largely supported the president's decision. The US Border Patrol also backs the president's action.
"It's something that's needed; especially out here in Arizona where we're still responsible for close to 50 percent of all the drug seizures in the entire country. It's a big deal to have the extra eyes so the agents can take the time to patrol areas of the field," explained border patrol agent Art del Cueto.
And the president wants Mexico to do more to prevent illegal crossings into the United States. He said it'll be a big part of renegotiations of NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement.
So, the president's border security plan is shaping up.
For now, it includes building part of a new border wall, along with security measures required in a new NAFTA agreement, and a wall of troops along the border.
The cost to taxpayers? No dollar amount at this time, but when Presidents Bush and Obama took similar actions in 2006 and 2010, that total price tag came in at more than a billion dollars.
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