I Ran U.S. Border Patrol—And I Support Trump's Call to Deploy the National Guard

In 2006, as the national chief of the Border Patrol, I welcomed the assignment of roughly 6,000 National Guardsmen to serve as a force multiplier to the then-9,000 Border Patrol agents on duty along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was the right call to make at the time. The influx of drugs, illegal immigration, and criminal organizations was overwhelming the agency, and cartel violence was at its peak on the south side of the border with Mexico.

Some have criticized President Trump’s decision to deploy the Guard, but based on my own experience, these troops will be of tremendous benefit along the border. It’s also not a permanent solution. While the National Guard enhances Border Patrol’s interdiction capacities, the rest of the system will struggle to keep pace without comprehensive efforts beyond the Border Patrol.

In 2006, the deployment of the National Guard, along with supporting equipment, brought a rapid increase and expansion of the Border Patrol’s capabilities. The Guard served a key role in non-direct enforcement work along the border, enhancing surveillance capabilities and increasing situational awareness. Importantly, they relieved agents of more administrative tasks so they could return to patrol and enforcement duties.

The National Guard’s deployment was an immediate and symbolic bridge between policy and action—a confirmation of the nation’s commitment to grow the Border Patrol’s organic capabilities. At the time, fences and infrastructure were being built, and Congress had appropriated funding to more than double the Border Patrol’s size and passed budgets necessary to acquire supporting technology. The 2006 National Guard deployment, appropriately called ‘Operation Jump Start,’ served a critical role in helping agents both in the field, as deployed surveillance units, and at bases, as mechanics and maintenance personnel, as those initiatives got underway.

Since then, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has matured into the largest federal law-enforcement organization in the United States. Today, the Border Patrol has over 21,000 agents and is expected to hire thousands more. Fencing and barriers authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006 have also been erected, covering about 650 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite these gains, more needs to be done as challenges on the border evolve. Although the number of apprehensions has dropped compared to previous years, today’s flow is much more complex and resource-intensive. As a result, I believe President Trump’s call to deploy the National Guard to the border has merit.

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