- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol says the deployment of National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border by President Bush has given his agency personnel, equipment and engineering capabilities at unprecedented levels.

“Operation Jump Start continues to be beneficial for the Border Patrol and the National Guard,” said Chief David V. Aguilar. “The National Guard continues to serve as a vital asset in the effort to protect America from future terrorist attacks and mitigate illegal border incursions.”

Nearly 6,200 Guard troops have been deployed along the border from California to Texas as part of Mr. Bush’s $760 million plan to upgrade border security and give the Border Patrol time to recruit, hire and train 6,000 additional agents for assignment along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Guard troops are building roads and fences, adding cameras and sensors, conducting aerial reconnaissance, providing medical aid and communications support, and assisting at highway checkpoints.

About a third of the Guard force is assigned to entry-identification teams, which monitor major illegal entry and drug smuggling corridors along the border — mostly in Arizona — and report illegal activity to the Border Patrol.

Operation Jump Start has contributed, with other enforcement initiatives, to creating a greater level of border security, Chief Aguilar said.

Chief Aguilar also disputed assertions by Border Patrol field agents that they had been assigned to guard the National Guard troops. Several veteran agents in Arizona said last month that they were issued standing orders to be within five minutes of the Guard troops and that Border Patrol units were pulled from other regions to protect the Guard teams.

The agents, who referred to the assignment as “the nanny patrol,” said most of the Guard troops are not allowed to carry loaded weapons, despite a significant increase in border violence directed at Border Patrol agents during the past year.

National Border Patrol Council President T.J. Bonner said the presence of the Guard troops on the border had allowed a few hundred agents to be reassigned from administrative to field duties, “about the same number are now assigned to guard the National Guard troops.”

Chief Aguilar said that only “a small percentage” of Border Patrol agents are working as “force protection” for the Guard members.

“It is important to point out that these agents are also performing their traditional border enforcement functions,” he said, adding that his agency has committed only “a limited amount of resources” to protect Guard personnel deployed in high-threat areas.

“Border violence is a reality. There are people affiliated with criminal organizations that wish harm on the Border Patrol and anyone aiding us with mission accomplishment.”

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