Boxer Urges Augmented Border Staff : Immigration: Senator says National Guard troops would be a cost-effective way to bolster patrols. They would get special training but would not make arrests.


On the heels of a Clinton Administration plan to clamp down on illegal immigration, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called Thursday for the use of National Guard troops to supplement federal agents along the Mexican border.

Boxer, citing the substantial financial strain that illegal immigration imposes on California, said the National Guard troops “could prove (to be) the most cost-effective way to bolster enforcement.”

Under the Boxer plan, Guard troops would be assigned to spend all or part of their obligated 15 days of training working with the Border Patrol. She noted that the Guard has 500,000 members nationwide and 22,000 in California.


On a trial basis, she suggested that 4,000 California Guard troops be assigned to spend their 15-day commitments with the Border Patrol, the equivalent of adding 240 full-time agents and increasing staffing during each eight-hour shift by about one-third.

The Guard could provide administrative assistance and accompany federal agents on patrol but would not be authorized to make arrests or searches, a Boxer staffer said.

Boxer emphasized that the troops would work at the direction of the Border Patrol and require special training and equipment.

It was not clear from Boxer’s proposal what the cost would be or who would pay for it.

Clinton on Tuesday announced a program of tougher enforcement of immigration laws and the hiring of 600 additional agents.

The immigration issue, always a sensitive one in California, has become incendiary in recent years as the state’s economy has suffered from the lingering recession and cutbacks in defense spending.

“This is an idea, an innovative way to increase the size of the Border Patrol during a time of tremendous deficits,” Boxer said.


Using military forces to enforce civilian law is highly restricted, but Congress has made exceptions in the cases of insurrections, rebellions and the investigations of congressional and presidential assassinations.

In 1988, an amendment sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) authorized the Department of Defense to take a lead role in the war on drugs and interdict aircraft and ships smuggling drugs into the country.

In that role, the National Guard has been extensively used to improve roads and erect a border fence along the Mexican border in Hunter’s district.

Boxer hopes that her plan will not need special legislation, but said she will seek it if necessary. Previous efforts to expand the military’s role have bogged down in the Senate.

Boxer noted that National Guard troops are being used in Puerto Rico to assist police in fighting crime.

Boxer discussed the plan with Atty. Gen. Janet Reno Thursday and said Reno “was very, very interested.”


But the idea was greeted with strong disapproval by immigrant rights groups.

“I question the need for further militarization of the border,” said Charles Wheeler, director of National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles. “The implication is that we are somehow facing a hostile force, and that is simply not true.”

“We’ve heard this before, but this is real scary,” said Roberto Martinez, director of the U.S./Mexico Border Project of the American Friends Service in San Diego. “We already worried about the 600 new agents Clinton proposed. This is going to be open season on undocumented, unarmed civilians.”