SACRAMENTO, CA. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to keep Californian guardsmen at the border. In a letter issued to President George W. Bush on January 30, the governor wrote that the presence of some 6,000 troops was essential to maintaining border security.
Deployed in 2006, the troops were part of Operation Jump Start that, apart from California, stretched across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Their job was to patrol the border with Mexico until the states filled the vacancies in Border Patrol agencies. The mission is to expire in July 2008.
Although Gov. Schwarzenegger originally opposed the deployment, citing the high costs of the operation – over $1 billion – he now hopes the guardsmen will protect the border beyond the July deadline.
“I also strongly urge you to extend Operation Jump Start with full federal funding until the mission is complete, so that our shared goal of a strong and secure border can be realized,” Gov. Schwarzenegger wrote to President Bush.
The situation at the border with Mexico is alarming. According to the data provided by the Office of the Governor, not even half of the planned 6,000 Border Patrol agents have been employed and trained. The most optimistic scenario assumes that the figures will be replenished by the end of this year. If the current pace continues, however, it may take as long as two more years to fill the gaps.
“[W]e cannot afford to jeopardize the safety and security of our fellow Americans by removing personnel prematurely,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger during his meeting with White House officials on Monday, Feb. 25.
The Bush Administration’s response was not immediately known. But despite the total budget of $12.3 billion that the White House will spend on border security this year alone, the future of the 6,000 guardsmen patrolling the border with Mexico is endangered. The military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq have overstretched the ranks of the National Guard, and the White House treats the overseas missions as its top priority.
“Any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and the recommendations of our commanders,” President Bush said in his State of the Union Address.
Eighty California National Guardsmen left for Afghanistan on Sunday, Feb. 24. Along with them, equipment worth millions of dollars and sponsored by the state of California also flew overseas. Some of it was used to patrol the border with Mexico and now local authorities will have to depend on less reliable machines.
“Every time our National Guards leave, they take with them equipment but they don’t bring it back. So there’s only so long they can do that,” Gov. Schwarzenegger told reporters on Monday, Feb. 25.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that some 850,000 illegal immigrants enter the United States each year. Aliens from Mexico represent over 50 percent of this number. California alone hosts around 3 million illegal immigrants who cost the state $10.5 billion annually.