U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced May 9 that its officers have apprehended 1,600 people attempting to illegally enter the country from Mexico since April 15. The CBP said the deployment of National Guard troops to the southwest border to support its efforts was a significant factor in these successful apprehensions.
While National Guard troops are not actively involved in arresting illegal border crossers, by performing backup duties such as monitoring radio communications, they free up a greater number of CBP agents, thus allowing the federal officers to apprehend a larger number of illegals.
The Washington Examiner reported that the increased surveillance and communication between Guardsmen and border officers has also led to CBP intercepting an additional 451 people who turned back before illegally crossing the border. That report noted that as of May 9, 775 troops have been deployed and are on the ground providing “direct support on the ground” in seven sectors assisting law-enforcement officers.
The report cited officials who said that the troops monitoring remote video surveillance systems have then been able to report sightings to a greater number of Border Patrol agents and, therefore, the number of apprehensions has increased
“Those [National Guard] folks are giving us the additional situational awareness in the radio rooms … which are allowing the Border Patrol agents sitting in those areas to go into the field,” Sean Hannity's website quoted one federal official as saying. “As a reminder, these guardsmen are not carrying out law enforcement duties,” he added.
CNN cited a statement that Defense Secretary James Mattis made on May 10, confirming other reports that National Guard forces are not performing arrests.
“Right now we are not having any contact with migrants,” Mattis said.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “has not asked for that support and I have no plans to provide that support for any contact between the National Guard and migrants,” Mattis added.
While Nielsen has not asked for the National Guard to engage directly with illegal migrants, the DHS is asking the Defense Department for additional manpower and equipment to help secure the southern border, Defense Department and Homeland Security officials told ABC News.
ABC News cited a defense official who said that on May 9 the DHS requested about 700 additional National Guard troops plus helicopters and other equipment. The request is for assistance with Customs and Border Protection missions, specifically Air and Marine units, but not directly with the Border Patrol’s ground operations.
Photo of National Guard soldier watching over the Rio Grande: AP Images