The Texas National Guard could acquire the power to make arrests after Gov. Rick Perry announced plans to deploy 1,000 troops to the border to help deal with the illegal immigration crisis, The New York Times
In the past, the National Guard has not had the power to make arrests or apprehend people in cases when the federal government authorizes their deployment, but because Perry authorized it himself, the law allows for him to grant the National Guard those powers.
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"This does not come from the federal government," said Jayson Ahern, a former Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner, told the Times. He helped coordinate deployment of the National Guard to the border in 2006 when President George W. Bush had ordered them to four border states to repair and build fences and roads, and conduct surveillance and other administrative duties, the Times reported.
"That's the biggest distinction here. This is the governor taking unilateral action. Not having that oversight and supervision and direction as part of a plan from the federal authorities, I think it is reckless and could lead to significant safety issues."
The possibility of the National Guard acquiring new powers is causing concerns among immigrant rights groups and others who say the troops don't have the training, and they also say there are risks of civil rights violations and potentially violent conflicts with immigrants.
"It's going to complicate the scenario of civil and human rights at the border," Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told the Times.
"Border Patrol agents have to go through a number of certifications in academy and post-academy training on immigration law, on civil rights law. Now you're talking about putting in soldiers doing that kind of work. Legally, it's going to be a disaster if they start enforcing criminal, civil or immigration laws."
So far, Perry and Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard, have said the troops were needed to combat Mexican drug cartels and other criminal organizations under their mission of "referring and deterring."
It is still unclear whether Perry will grant the troops the additional powers of arrest and apprehension, though Perry has previously favored those powers, asking President Barack Obama in a letter last month to give the troops that authority, according to the Times.
Perry intends to ask the administration to pay for the estimated $12 million a month to deploy the National Guard on the basis that federal laws allow the Pentagon to pay for such deployments but it remains to be seen whether Texas would quality for reimbursement in this instance.
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