- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

A task force of former U.S. Border Patrol agents, ex-military personnel, academics and congressional staffers, who last year called for 36,000 National Guard troops to be deployed on the Mexican border, has begun a tour of the Canadian border to study “options” to better secure the nation’s northern frontier.

Conclusions from the three-week mission will be submitted to the House Homeland Security and Armed Services committees and to the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus on July 4 for consideration for legislation.

Citing national-security concerns, congressional aides said the mission will follow an operational plan similar to a fact-finding mission last year on the southwest border that resulted in a 36-page report — “Results and Implications of the Minuteman Project” — submitted to the caucus.

The report said the deployment of 36,000 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border would stop the illegal flow of foreigners into the United States, noting that the Minuteman Project’s border watch in Arizona in April 2005 proved that additional manpower could “dramatically reduce if not virtually eliminate” illegal entry.

The report said the Minuteman Project served as a model for the federal government to reclaim the nation’s southern border and called on Republican Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Democratic Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Bill Richardson of New Mexico to immediately request federal funding for the mobilization of 36,000 Guard troops.

“The primary impetus to stimulate the Minuteman Project is a border out of control; not for months, not for years, not just since September 11, but for many, many years,” according to the report. “Social and legal costs and cultural cohesion far outweigh supposed economic benefit. At a time of terror threat, the cost of irresponsibly unsecured borders can be horrific.”

The Bush administration did not respond to the report but has since sent 6,000 National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol in better securing the 1,951-mile southern border. President Bush has said, however, that he will not militarize the border and that the Guard troops will be sent home once the Border Patrol hires and trains agents to replace them.

Rep. Charlie Norwood, a Georgia Republican whose staff participated in the 2005 study, told Mr. Bush last year that the southern border could be “virtually closed except at legal points of entry” within a month if the suggested 36,000 Guard troops were deployed.

The mission to the Canadian border will seek to make threat assessments and prepare a situation report with recommendations. It will focus on state and local law-enforcement agencies, the enforcement and administrative capabilities of the. U.S. Forest and Park services, the Border Patrol, operational capabilities of the U.S. military and the National Guard, commercial operations, intelligence operations, and the cross-water threat on inland waterways, including the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes.

Calling it a “boots-on-the-ground mission,” the aides said it will target ports of entry, train stations, public and private airports, water access routes, seaports and land access crossing points from New Hampshire and Vermont to Washington state.

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