By Maria Peña
WASHINGTON – U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Efe on Wednesday that sending the National Guard to the country’s southern border will depend on the situation on the ground, adding that a contingency plan is being prepared for the worst-case scenario in which the drug-linked violence in Mexico leads to “massive emigration” northwards.
The request for the sending of 1,000 troops to the border “is under active consideration in the Defense Department and will depend on several factors,” said Napolitano in an interview with Efe.
“It’s a decision that must be made with much caution because, as President (Barack) Obama has already said, we don’t want to militarize the border. We want to lead (the anti-drug fight) with the civil authorities and that’s what we’re doing,” she said.
Napolitano was referring to the request by the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, to send the National Guard to the region as one element in dissuading drug traffickers from swarming around the mutual border.
Napolitano will meet with Perry on Thursday to go over the details of how and where the deployment would be carried out, and she will also consult with the Pentagon.
During the presidency of George W. Bush and with the consent of the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the federal government deployed up to 6,000 members of the National Guard in the Southwest between 2006 and 2008.
That “militarization” of the border sparked the condemnation of pro-immigrant groups, despite the fact that the National Guard was not authorized to detain undocumented immigrants.
The aim of Operation Jumpstart, recalled former Arizona Gov. Napolitano, was to provide logistical, administrative and transportation support in the region “to free up the Border Patrol and increase the interdiction of illegal immigration.”
Meanwhile, she continued, the United States is finalizing a “contingency plan” with local and state authorities in case the so-called “narco-violence” spills over into the United States from Mexico or sparks a massive exodus from that country.
“It’s a very remote scenario, but it would be part of that plan if there were massive emigration to the United States by those seeking to flee the cartels,” she said.
“But we’re not even remotely close to that situation. Therefore, it’s deceptive to a certain degree to frighten readers with a contingency plan because we’re always planning for the worst case,” Napolitano emphasized.
In the face of criticism that the deployment of more federal agents along the border, announced on Tuesday, is insufficient, Napolitano insisted that it is “a significant movement” of personnel and resources that is subject to adjustment.
“If we have to increase (the efforts) in the future, we’ll do so. If we have to reduce them, we’ll do so ... We have to deal with the current threat,” she said. EFE