Arizona Democrat: Our Border is Not Secure

A bipartisan group of congressmen on Wednesday sent a letter to President Obama seeking the deployment of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border.

“Our border currently is not secure,” Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D.-Ariz.) said today at a Capitol Hill press conference where the congressmen released their letter to President Obama asking for the immediate deployment of the National Guard.

Giffords said improvements have been made in border security, such as the decision in Southern Arizona to detain illegals crossing the border rather than the catch-and-release program that kept lawbreakers on U.S. streets. But there are still not enough National Guardsmen and Border Patrol agents on the border itself, Giffords said.

Representatives from all states that border Mexico have signed the letter, as well as Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, who said that because the United States has such a mobile society, the issue affects his state as well. Giffords is one of two Democrats to sign the letter, the other being Rep. Harry Teague of New Mexico.

Rep. Ted Poe (R.-Tex.), the leading Republican behind the letter, said the local Border Patrol and sheriffs on the border are “outmanned, outgunned, and out-financed” by the drug cartels, and that the letter’s request differs from others in that it asks the National Guard placed on the actual border. The letter asks that these units be armed and able to defend themselves and also be given guidance as to rules of engagement. 

Poe said he’s spoken with 14 different Texas county sheriffs on the border, and they tell him that 37% of those in local jails near the Southern border in Texas are legal and illegal foreign nationals being held for misdemeanors and felonies, not for immigration violations. Poe also showed a picture at the press conference of a helicopter with Mexican military markings flying on the U.S. side of the border over an RV park. Poe said the purpose of the helicopter is unknown.

Poe invited Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano down to the Texas-Mexico border to see the situation there for herself. Napolitano said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the border is more secure now that it has been previously,

“It is a tragic, violent war zone that has to be corrected,” Poe said.

Also attending the conference were Rep. Edward Royce (R-Calif.) and Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tex.)