Arizona Governor Resists Hiring State Guard Units For Border
Gov. Janet Napolitano is balking at putting Arizona National Guard units along the international border at state expense to replace troops from across the nation who are being withdrawn, according to a Capitol Media Services article.
Napolitano says that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has ignored her request to delay the planned end this summer of Operation Jump Start.
That federally funded program, started in 2006, was designed to put 6,000 Guard soldiers in support roles along the border – 2,400 in Arizona – to do projects ranging from surveillance and office tasks to building fences. The idea was to free up Border Patrol officers to actually get out in the field.
All those troops, however, are slated to be gone by July 15.
The governor told Capitol Media Services that the deadline would have made sense when the program started. But she says it does not make sense now.
“I think given the delays in getting the ‘virtual fence’ operational, given the delays in getting the Border Patrol staffed up to the numbers that were predicted, removing the Guard is premature and unnecessary,” Napolitano says.
The governor said the number of people being apprehended trying to cross the border illegally has been decreasing.
“And we think one of the reasons is because they know the Guard is there to back up the Border Patrol.”
Napolitano acknowledged there is an alternative: She is the commander of the Arizona National Guard. And that gives her the power to order the soldiers under her command onto active duty to replace those Guard units that are being withdrawn.
But the governor said one big difference is who picks up the bill.
“Since I believe the federal government has not put enough federal resources on the border to begin with, to put yet another burden on Arizona taxpayers would be a hard thing to swallow,” Napolitano told Capitol Media Services.
Still, she said the idea of perhaps having Arizona Guard units do some of their required annual training along the border “is not outside the realm of possibility, but nothing I want to commit to right now.”
“We’re still working on the feds,” she says.
But what Napolitano wants just isn’t going to happen, says Laura Keehner, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security.
“This has been our plan all along,” Keehner says, speaking of the act to increase the Border Patrol while decreasing the number of Guard soldiers along the border.
She also rejected Napolitano’s contention that the build-up of federal officers has been slower than anticipated. Keehner says the Border Patrol is on track to have 18,000 officers working by the end of this year, the precise number projected when Operation Jump Start started.