Governors in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are being urged to use their legal authority under federal and state law to counteract President Bush"s order to pull half of the 6,000 National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border.
The U.S. Freedom Foundation wants California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Texas Gov. Rick Perry to issue executive orders to replace any National Guard forces withdrawn from the border with troops under state command.
The foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan group that seeks to restore individual freedoms and economic opportunities of middle-class Americans, has asked the governors of the remaining 46 states to immediately come to the support of the mission by offering troops to assist efforts by the four border states.
"Four states should not be asked to assume the homeland security burden of the entire nation," said U.S. Freedom Foundation President John E. Stone. "But in this case, the federal government has abdicated its constitutional obligation to defend our borders. The people, through the states, must now take up the job that our Republican president and Democratic Congress have abandoned."
The call is in response to a Bush administration announcement that it intends to draw down by Sept. 1 the number of National Guard soldiers now on the Southwest border from 6,000 last year to 3,000.
The Guard members were assigned as part of Mr. Bush's "Operation Jump Start," a government initiative aimed at helping the U.S. Border Patrol protect the border while it recruits, hires, trains and assigns 6,000 new agents.
"The National Guard troops who have been assisting the Border Patrol for the last year have assisted by operating surveillance systems, installing fence and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads and conducting administrative duties," said White House spokesman Scott M. Stanzel.
"Operation Jump Start was always intended to provide temporary support to the Border Patrol while it recruited more agents and new infrastructure projects were started," he said. "As the president indicated in May of last year, this initial commitment of troops was planned to be in place for one year."
But Mr. Stone said the governors have full legal authority to deploy their National Guard and State Defense Forces "as they see fit to protect the citizens of their state." He said the only question is whether the states can force the federal government to pay their costs.
"But regardless of federal reimbursement, if all 50 governors would commit to maintaining the existing deployment level, it would only require an average commitment of 60 soldiers per state to replace the 3,000 troops the president has ordered withdrawn," he said. "That is a minuscule price to help secure our border."
Mr. Stone said that while the 6,000 Guard troops deployed over the last year are credited with reducing illegal border crossings by 24 percent, the U.S. Freedom Foundation supports a 36,000-troop deployment plan that would "virtually end illegal crossings on the southern border."
Since Operation Jump Start began in June 2006, the Border Patrol has added 2,300 agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, who oversees the Border Patrol, said the agency is "on track to meet our goal."