A Texas Republican who steadfastly has prodded the federal government to better secure the U.S.-Mexico border has introduced legislation requiring the Defense Department to make National Guard troops available to states on request.
Rep. Ted Poe, in response to what he called the federal governments failure to answer the repeated requests of border state governors to protect the nation's international borders, has offered the National Guard Border Enforcement Act to ensure that border states "have the needed resources to protect their citizens from the ongoing border-related violence."
The bill, endorsed by 20 other Republican members of the House, would authorize the secretary of defense to make 10,000 National Guard troops available on request from a U.S. governor. In addition, the troops would be paid for by the federal government and serve under the command of the requesting governor.
"The first duty of the federal government is to protect its people," Mr. Poe said. "Texans are tired of the federal government's failure to secure our borders and enforce our laws, yet at the same time running roughshod over state governments when they try to enforce the law and protect their citizens.
"The federal governments 'not our problem' attitude is unacceptable and this legislation will require the Defense Department to do what they were created to do — protect the people of this country and the dignity of our borders," he said.
Currently, the Defense Department has allocated only 250 National Guard troops for the entire 1,254-mile Texas-Mexico border and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said Texas must pay for any additional troops to enforce existing federal immigration laws along the international border.
Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican and one of the bill's co-sponsors, said the federal government is "directly responsible for enforcing existing laws to secure our borders and ensure the safe and legal movement of people, goods and commerce across our borders."
"Unfortunately, President Obama has failed in this effort, and it is now time for Congress to act," Mr. Culberson said. "There is a war on our southern border, and it is time to put an end to the horrific violence."
More than 28,000 people have been killed in Mexico's ongoing drug war, which U.S. authorities have said has spilled into the United States.
In September, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) posted signs along a major interstate highway in Arizona, warning travelers the area was unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers.
Pinal County, Ariz., Sheriff Paul Babeu, whose county lies at the center of major drug- and alien-smuggling routes to Phoenix and cities east and west, warned last month that Mexican drug cartels now control some parts of the state.
"This is going on here in Arizona," he said. "This is 70 to 80 miles from the border — 30 miles from the fifth-largest city in the United States."
Under the National Guard Border Enforcement Act, troops will be authorized to conduct armed vehicle and foot patrols on the U.S. southern border; interdict vehicles, vessels, aircraft or other, similar activities; search, seize and detain suspects; construct roads, fences and vehicle barriers; conduct search-and-rescue operations; gather intelligence; conduct surveillance and reconnaissance; and rely on aviation support.
Additionally, the bill would allow the secretary of defense to authorize additional troops should operational control of the U.S. border not be achieved with the first 10,000 National Guard troops deployed.
Mr. Poe, a former state judge and prosecutor, has been a longtime advocate of increased border security. Recently, he warned during a speech on the House floor that Americans were being targeted inside the United States, including fisherman on Falcon Lake in Zapata County, Texas, one of the best bass-fishing spots in the United States. The lake is part of the international boundary between Texas and Mexico.
"That piece of paradise has been intruded on this month by the lawlessness seeping over from the Mexican border," he said, noting that in two separate incidents, U.S. fishermen were robbed at gunpoint on the lake by Mexican pirates, who held AR-15 rifles to their heads.
On Thursday, a McAllen, Texas, man was fatally shot after being ambushed by six Mexican pirates in two boats on Falcon Lake. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez identified the victim as David Michael Hartley, 30, who was riding with his wife on personal watercraft on the lake.
Sheriff Gonzalez told reporters that Mr. Hartley's wife tried circling back to pull him from the water, but she was forced to retreat after being fired at by the gunmen.
"What are these pirates doing on Falcon Lake?" asked Mr. Poe. "Are they moving drugs or people or worse across the water? We don't know. In the 1800s, Thomas Jefferson sent the Navy to protect Americans from pirates in the Mediterranean. This administration is blissfully silent about the pirates on Falcon Lake.
"Meanwhile, the border war continues," he said. "And that's just the way it is."
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