Obama Wants 1,200 National Guard On Border
TONY COX, host:
I'm Tony Cox, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.
Coming up, could immigrants be making us safer? Research suggests that a three-year drop in violent crime is explained in part by an influx of immigrants.
But first, President Obama will send 1,200 National Guard troops to help tighten security along the U.S./Mexico border. The White House will also request an additional $500 million from Congress to help bolster law enforcement work. The move comes less than a week after a visit to Washington by Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, and just a couple of hours after an apparently contentious meeting between President Obama and Senate Republicans.
To find out how this is all being heard on either side of the border, we now turn to Diana Washington Valdez, a longtime reporter for the El Paso Times, which by definition also means covering Ciudad Juarez across the border. Diana, welcome to the show. Thanks for talking for talking to us.
Ms. DIANA WASHINGTON VALDEZ (Reporter, El Paso Times): Thanks for having us on.
COX: We hear a lot about the reaction from U.S. citizens along the border, but not so much from the people on the other side. How is this playing south of the United States and Mexico?
Ms. VALDEZ: Well, there are concerns by some sectors of the Mexican population about militarizing the border once more. But the Mexican government has responded very guardedly. For example, they've announced they're not going to boycott Arizona and that they understand from the U.S. government that the deployment is going to target the drug cartels and the arms traffickers and people involved in organized crime as opposed to stopping and holding and detaining illegal immigrants.
COX: One of the arguments for the border fence was that people living along the border on the U.S. side were particularly fearful now because of the violence associated with some of the immigrants crossing. Is there that same kind of fear on both sides or is it just the United States side that is concerned about being safe?
Ms. VALDEZ: Well, there's definitely a sense of fear. What is driving all this what has led to this appointment on the part of the White House is the fact that the threat of violence spillover by the drug cartels is a very real thing. It's a very real threat. And the soldiers are being sent to sort of as a to be a presence more than anything else, because I can't imagine, you know, what they're going to be doing. I doubt that they're going to be involved in any encounters with armed cartel operatives.
COX: What do you think that they will be doing? Because we know that this is not the first time that troops have been sent to the border. It was done a few years ago. But their role this time, as I understand it, is to be different than it was previously.
Ms. VALDEZ: I don't think the specific instructions have been handed down yet or even the units identified yet that will be used for this purpose. I think all of that is in a state of flux right now. But I think their instructions will not be as before, which was to support the border patrol in immigration control.
I think they will be sent to assist law enforcement along the border, civilian law enforcement along the border in the crackdown against the drug cartels and sort of like maintaining this line and preventing the spillover from coming across the border on the U.S. side.
COX: What about local law enforcement in Texas? We know that we've heard in Arizona, for example, different opinions from law enforcement officials there about their support or lack of from a stricter border enforcement. But what are hearing from law enforcement in El Paso? Are they happy that this is happening? Are they looking forward to some assistance?
Ms. VALDEZ: They're always glad to have any support. Of course, El Paso itself, we have a pretty good presence already of law enforcement. Now, out in the rural areas, where things are more difficult for the local sheriffs and deputies because they have very few resources and very little manpower to contain this violence that is spilling across.
COX: Thank you very much. Diana Washington Valdez is a longtime reporter for the El Paso Times. She has been covering the violence along the border from both the Mexico and United States side. She was kind enough to join us on the line from El Paso. Thank you very much.
Ms. VALDEZ: You're welcome.