Immigration

Trump's National Guard Deployment to the Border Is Political Theater, Just Like Obama's and Bush's

Border Patrol guards average just two illegal-immigrant apprehensions per month; they don't need reinforcements.

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Donderoooooo!!! ||| Rick D'Elia/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Rick D'Elia/ZUMA Press/Newscom

President Donald Trump, like his two immediate predecessors, has signed an order that will send an as-yet unknown number of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico to assist Border Patrol agents and also attend to the president's own short-term political needs.

If you think the above sentence is unfair in any way to the more immigrant-friendly George W. Bush, dial the wayback machine to May 2006, and note that Bush made the announcement on the exact same friggin' day that the Senate began debating an ill-fated comprehensive immigration reform package. If you think I'm being mean to Barack Obama, check out the Washington Post in 2010 noting that Obama's muscle-flexing, like Bush's, was openly intended to demonstrate credibility in advance of reform negotiations: "Then, as now, the troop deployment was fueled by heightened concerns about lawlessness—then it was illegal immigration, now it is drug traffickers—as well as political maneuvering in Washington to lay the groundwork for an effort to change immigration policy."

And if you think Trump alone of the three should be spared charges of political theatricality, consider that the 19,437 agents who work for the Border Patrol arrested between them 37,393 people attempting to cross northward across the border in March. That's two arrests per agent, on average, in a month. The month prior to Obama's move, there were 55,237 arrests made by 17,000 or so agents, or more than three per agent. And apprehensions the month before Bush moved were 126,538, or more than 12 per agent. So the president is throwing more money and manpower at a problem that is shrinking by the minute.

You can't go very wrong in 21st century American politics throwing ever-larger buckets of money at enforcement along the southern border. As Greg Beato noted in these pages six years ago, money and manpower along the Rio Grande had already tripled over the previous decade. But as El Paso–based Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) told me in 2015 after Trump first rode anti-illegal-immigration sentiment to the top of the polls, "You're really working against the law of diminishing returns at this point."

When you double the size of an agency in less than a decade, bad things can happen. "That rapid increase in staffing [under Bush] came with some problems," the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last year. "Hiring standards were lowered, training at the Border Patrol Academy truncated, and background checks—a crucial step—were delayed or not performed at all….About 170 border law enforcement agents and officers who have been arrested, indicted or convicted in corruption cases since 2002. Officials would later acknowledge the pressure to meet the hiring goals allowed less qualified candidates onto the force, and fueled in part a surge in the cases."

Trump is not necessarily governing in response to facts on the ground (which as he noted this morning in a rare moment of immigration policy honesty includes a historic low in illegal border crossings), but rather to the political imperatives created by his apocalyptic fantasies. This is someone who campaigned on nightmare border-footage that came from, um, Morocco. And just today, referencing the migrant caravan that's losing steam in Mexico, the president said, "Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened. Everybody said, 'Oh, he was so tough.' And I used the word 'rape.' And yesterday it came out where, this journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody has ever seen before. They don't want to mention that."

With Congress continuing to refuse Trump his border money, and failing to present to him any immigration compromise (not that he has been anything but unhelpful during negotiations), the chief executive is left to that old standby: "Stonewalling by Members of Congress," the White House said in a statement, "has prevented our dedicated Border Patrol agents from getting the resources they so desperately need. Inaction has left glaring loopholes open and crucial legal authorities unauthorized, so the President is taking action and using his existing powers to fill these gaps."

In other words, like his predecessors, he's reaching for his pen and phone.

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47 responses to “Trump's National Guard Deployment to the Border Is Political Theater, Just Like Obama's and Bush's

  1. Look Matt, if you know a better way of addressing the dire problem of people working to improve their lives without express government permission, then I’d sure like to hear it.

    1. Perhaps opening fire on unarmed migrants is an immigration policy that both parties can get behind.

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    2. It’s all fun and games until their kids go to school to the tune of 12K a year, they use roads, water infrastructure, and endless other government services all paid for via tax money… Which low earning illegal immigrants, just like native born poor, don’t earn enough to pay enough in taxes to support. We’re stuck with our native born poor, but importing people that will 100% be net negative tax payers in our society with tons of socialized costs is an idiotic idea.

      I grew up in California. It is now basically a 3rd world country. There are the wealthy and the peasants that service them, it wasn’t like that when I was a kid. And people mostly even spoke English back then too! It would be a far better place without the flood of illegals that have moved there.

      Unlimited international freedom of movement only works if there are very few or no socialized costs, wages are somewhat similar between the nations, and the people moving can’t vote in the new country the second they show up. In the real world low skill immigrants are a drain on the native born middle class and wealthy via taxes, and they vote for shit laws if they can vote. We don’t need a higher tax burden and more socialist policies.

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  2. If you think I’m being mean to Barack Obama, check out the Washington Post in 2010 noting that Obama’s muscle-flexing, like Bush’s, was openly intended to demonstrate credibility in advance of reform negotiations…

    Yes but only Bush/Obama could go to China… with a line of National Guardsmen. Unlike the current occupant-in-chief, those two loved Mexicans (er, uh, Guatemalans?). Unlike other presidents, Trump does things out of pure, unadulterated racism. Just be grateful he’s being exceptionally racist at the border rather than waiting and having to be exceptionally racist to them here in the homeland.

  3. There could be a deterrent effect.

    1. Which makes arrests per agent per month a specious argument and metric. The goal is a secure border with zero illegal crossings, therefore no arrests at all.

      1. So you’re saying that there isn’t a deterrent effect since they are still arresting people.

        1. He’s saying that if the goal is to bring down the number of illegal crossings, then doing something that decreases that number is a sign of success rather than failure or futility.

          If putting troops on the border makes the number crossing illegally go down, wouldn’t that mean the deployment was a success rather than merely political theater?

          Sure, the number could go down for other reasons, too, but you may have to bend over backwards to show that putting troops on the border has no deterrent effect.

          Right?

          If I buy a guard dog, I can’t prove that’s why my business is no longer being burglarized on a regular basis. But how are you going to prove that buying a guard dog didn’t make a difference–by citing the fact that the number of burglaries has gone down?

          1. If putting troops on the border makes the number crossing illegally go down, wouldn’t that mean the deployment was a success rather than merely political theater?

            Sure – if all you care about is how many people come across illegally. But shouldn’t we be looking to *counter the damage* these immigrants cause? I know that measuring the number of border crossings is an easy metric but the only reason we care about this in the first place is the damage to us these people cause.

            So, if an immigrant causes $250,000/year in damage (just picking a number out of nowhere for illustrative purposes – don’t read anything into the values) and it costs $275,000 to prevent that crossing – aren’t we just screwing ourselves harder than the illegal would have?

            There comes a point where you just have to say that the cost for further improvements is not worth the gain from that improvement. We don’t give the cops carte-blanche to search residences and there’s certainly been a large pushback versus the government’s indiscriminate spying on Americans specifically because we are saying that we’re not willing to bear any further cost in the pursuit of safety.

            Hell – every single one of you closed-borders types openly espouse this in every other area – except border security (and, to be frank, a lot of people seem to love them some military spending no matter what its for).

            1. There comes a point where you just have to say that the cost for further improvements is not worth the gain from that improvement.

              Cost of Improvement/Benefit of Improvement is a formula only for the private sector. When you’re the government, it’s OPM and that’s like dividing by zero – does not compute.

              1. When you’re the government, it’s OPM and that’s like dividing by zero – does not compute.

                Yeah, but it hasn’t stopped them from trying yet.

            2. I think the point is to control who can and can’t come into the country and become permanent residents–by means of the rules of naturalization that congress has set per their enumerated power in the Constitution.

              I don’t believe we can have a rational discussion about what the level of immigration should be until the means by which people come here as permanent residents is brought under congress’ control.

              Not enough of the American people will accept that we should open our borders to more people until they’re convinced that we’re only letting in the people we want. It’s like recreational marijuana. People won’t accept that either–unless you tell them that retailers selling to minors will still be illegal.

              Talking about open borders when people are walking back and forth across the border indiscriminately is the sound of one hand clapping. It’s gotten so people can’t even understand what we’re talking about when we’re talking about open borders anymore.

              They hear “open borders”, and they think that means not giving a shit about the cartels, human traffickers, gangsters, convicted felons–even felons that have been convicted in the U.S. coming back across the border after they’ve been deported, etc., etc.

              Once we can stop people from coming across the border, we can start having the conversation about how we should let most anyone who isn’t a convicted felon, etc. in. Until then, talk of open immigration is meaningless.

              1. I think the point is to control who can and can’t come into the country and become permanent residents–by means of the rules of naturalization that congress has set per their enumerated power in the Constitution.

                There’s still a point where you have to ask yourself if spending the next dollar on achieving that control is worth what you get.

                The more you tighten your grip, the more will slip through your fingers.

                1. Obviously there is SOME point at which it isn’t worth it. But illegal immigrants are more than just a monetary thing.

                  They have completely changed the culture and way of life in huge swaths of the country. My home state of California is basically part of Mexico now. When my dad was born there it was something like 90% white, and very much had a western frontiersman attitude. Between east coast liberals and illegals moving there, it’s like a different planet even compared to when I grew up there.

                  Then there’s the fact that kids of illegals can legally vote when they grow up. These people, speaking frankly, all vote wrong. This is a for realz thing. It matters. If only Americans born to legal American residents (aka no children of illegals) existed in California to vote, it would not be even remotely close to being the crazy left wing haven it is now. This is simply a demographic/statistical fact.

                  And plenty of other issues I could rattle on about forever. If 75K or 100K a year (whatever total compensation is for a border patrol agent) prevents 24 illegals a year from entering, that is almost certainly paying for itself in terms of tax dollars saved, and all the other problems being prevented are just icing on the cake.

                  1. They really are hurting the country. We must stop them.

                    No more illegals. Build the wall.

      2. So, since the goal is zero crossings, the cost of achieving that goal suddenly becomes irrelevant? Diminishing gains are no longer to be considered?

        What if the goal was just one crossing, per year, *for the whole border* – would that mean that we still have to factor in what it would cost to achieve this?

        1. What if the cost is individual liberty?

          1. Then that’s a cost that needs to be taken into consideration then, isn’t it?

          2. “What if the cost is individual liberty?”

            Tree-fitty.

    2. The presence of National Guardsmen in high crime neighborhoods in the US might deter crime too. Would you propose that Ken?

      1. I was the beneficiary of National Guardsmen imposing a curfew and, really, martial law, once. I was so relived driving to my job in a hospital in Inglewood that day–with the soldiers standing guard all down the major streets. I’d had to bob and weave through crowds of pedestrians trying to Reginald Denny my ass on the way home when the riots first broke out.

        3,767 buildings burned, 12,000 people arrested, . . . thank goodness the National Guard got everything back under control.

        If the National Guard brings the border under control like that, it’ll be a great thing–so long as they’re doing it on the border. I’ve got no problem with using troops to patrol our international borders. They should have been doing that all along rather than patrolling the border of Iraq. That’s what the military is supposed to be for–protecting our borders. Not protecting the borders of South Korea.

        1. The problem is that you have this picture in your mind comparing our relatively calm border to an urban riot or war zone. That’s just simply not the case. In fact, it’s pretty telling that Trump had to stir up that sentiment during his campaign by showing footage from Morocco and claiming it was our southern border. #FakeNews

          1. He wasn’t comparing them. He was merely saying they can be effective in either situation.

        2. Excellent comment. Thanks!

      2. as Lomg as the military is not used for law enforcement purposes, then yes. The military is not a law enforce,ent body, and has no arrest powers over civilians. Nor should they.

  4. Does anyone think that the Kochtopus media arms (Cato & Reason) promote open borders for cheap labor?

    120,000 employees…

    Or it could be that the Kochs believe that a closed-border position would taint their flavor of libertarianism as racist?

    1. Do intentions even matter?

      1. At least from a policy argumentation standpoint.

    2. I’ve never met the Kochs; so I really don’t know what their motives are. It seems just as possible, though, that they simply advocate principles of limited government for more than just industry regulation and taxation (social issues, immigration, defense, etc.)

    3. I mean more laws, more federal agents, less freedom for individuals…. That’s the goal of libertarianism, right?

    4. Have you stopped beating your wife?

  5. At the same time we have the developing trade war.

    We will stop the immigrants with massive unemployment in the US and agriculture is getting hit hard.

    The banana republics always had plenty of bananas. They will flourish. Mexicans and Central Americans will stay home as there are more jobs there than here.

    Brilliant strategy.

    1. At the same time we have the developing Trump-generated trade war.

      FTFY

      The solution to a Trump-generated trade war is a Trump-generated warzone on our southern border? It’s a small price to pay to fix such an overhyped “problem” as illegal immigration.

      1. “Over-hyped” losing an entire coast to liberal leaning illegal immigrants and their progeny is hardly “Over-hyped.” But, what ever is good for your FEELZ.

      2. The Trade War with China began a decade or two ago with China subsidizing industry and devaluating their currency to make their goods competitive across the globe along with the destruction of the US manufacturing base. As things are now if we fought an actual war with China we couldn’t build anything without their chips. Trump didn’t start the trade war, he’s just the first one to respond to the one China started long ago. America can’t coast very far without a manufacturing base and middle class.

  6. Isn’t that a reason to deploy the guard?

  7. Dammit people, where is the love for Matt’s alt-text?

  8. It’s about time the President of the United States got serious about securing our southern border and deporting illegals. It’s a good use and training opportunity for the National Guard.

    1. I’d trust a bunch fo National Guards guys before I’d trust a bunch of ICE, TSA, ATF, FBI, NSA, DEA agents.

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  10. The desert washes around Phoenix are corridors for illegals. Walking through one I decided to count the many backpacks left behind by illegals but in a fraction of a mile I gave up because I’d already reached 100. This author who thinks Border Patrol doesn’t need backup obviously hasn’t been where illegals are actually crossing and passing through by the millions undetected.

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