WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said today that the National Guard would be quickly called to the souther border because “we continue to see unacceptable levels of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity, transnational criminal organizations and illegal immigration flow across,” but the particulars needed to be cleared by border governors.
Nielsen said Trump’s directive tells the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to “work together with our governors to deploy the National Guard to our southwest border to assist the Border Patrol.”
Despite a “Trump effect” under which illegal crossings significantly dropped, she told reporters in the White House briefing room, “We’ve recently seen the numbers of illegal border crossings rise from 40-year lows last April to pre — back to previous levels. Our current border security and immigration laws fail the American people.”
Nielsen claimed that more immigrants claiming credible fear to enter the asylum process is “indicative of the rising level of fraud that plagues our system.”
She said full details of the National Guard plan wouldn’t be disclosed yet “because much of what we will be doing in conjunction with the border state governors will be worked out through the appropriate processes, as it has been in the past.”
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray tweeted that he spoke with Nielsen today and she “clarified some aspects of the National Guard deployment at the border.”
“Mexico will act in a sovereign way in defense of the nation’s interest,” Videgaray added.
In a lengthier account of the call, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Nielsen assured Videgaray that the National Guard “will not carry weapons or carry out immigration or customs control functions” and compared the characteristics of the deployment to President George W. Bush sending 6,000 troops to help the Border Patrol in a support capacity in 2006 and President Obama sending 1,200 National Guard to the border in 2010 to help combat drug and human smuggling.
Videgaray told Nielsen that “if the announced deployment of the National Guard resulted in a militarization of the border, it would seriously damage the bilateral relationship,” the ministry said.
In speaking with reporters, Nielsen said of her conversation with Mexican counterparts, “They understand the administration’s desire, much like their own, to control illegal entry into our country. They understand and respect our national sovereignty.”
Nielsen said she hoped the “deployment begins immediately,” pending conversations with border governors.
“We are giving them the opportunity to review our suggestions of how the National Guard can support the Border Patrol. But as soon as the numbers are available, we’ll provide them,” she said. “It will be strong. It will be as many as is needed to fill the gaps that we have today, is what I can tell you.”
Nielsen confirmed that, as in previous operations, the National Guard will not be conducting border enforcement “as of now.”
She said the urgency of calling up the Guard now is based partly on “anticipating” more border crossings as the weather gets warmer.
Trump said Tuesday at a White House news conference with Baltic leaders that his administration was “preparing for the military to secure our border” because “the Mexican border is very unprotected by our laws.”
“We have horrible, horrible and very unsafe laws in the United States, and we’re going to be able to do something about that hopefully soon,” he said. “Hopefully Congress will get their act together and get in and create some very powerful laws, like Mexico has, and like Canada has, and like almost all countries have.”
On Tuesday evening, the White House said Trump received a briefing from senior administration officials last week “on the growing influx of illegal immigration, drugs and violent gang members from Central America, and directed a vigorous administrative strategy to confront this threat and protect America’s national security.”
Trump received a follow-up briefing Tuesday, the White House added, “to discuss his administration’s strategy, which includes the mobilization of the National Guard.” He met with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chief of Staff John Kelly.