You can’t have national security without border security. It’s not only necessary for any meaningful immigration reform; border security plays a key role in both the interdiction of illegal drugs and in defending America against terrorist threats. Weak borders allow terrorists and smugglers, as well as millions of illegal aliens, easy entrance to the United States. Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear our government is committed to its first responsibility: the protection of our borders.
In June 2006 the federal government began Operation Jump Start, deploying 6,000 National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol in securing our border with Mexico. Now, the number of National Guard troops helping as part of Operation Jump Start is being cut in half and by September 1st only 3,000 troops will still be in place.
Since Operation Jump Start began, fewer illegal immigrants are crossing our southern border. Marijuana, cocaine, and heroin seizures have increased—a reminder that better border security is an essential part of drug interdiction. Tightening control of our southern border may also be a factor in the lack of additional terrorist attacks in the United States since September 11, 2001. Clearly the National Guard’s presence on our border with Mexico has been a success.
While the drawdown of the National Guard troops participating in Operation Jump Start was scheduled since the beginning of the operation, the troops were supposed to be replaced by 6,000 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. These replacements, called for by President Bush, would increase the total number of agents from 12,000 to 18,000. However, recruitment has been slow and continuing with the planned withdrawal of the National Guard is significantly reducing manpower on the border.
We’ve found a successful strategy for increasing border security. We need to advance it, not retreat from it. The President got the message and last week announced a new set of initiatives to combat illegal immigration. Having failed for years to solve our illegal immigration problem and protect our borders, however, Congress and the President need to keep the National Guard in place until we meet the goal of 18,000 border agents.
Originally appeared on ImWithFred.com
Fred Thompson has been a lawyer, actor and United States Senator. He writes exclusive analysis and commentary for Townhall Magazine.