Dallas Dispatching an already-stretched National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border will create operational and logistical headaches without putting much of a dent into illegal immigration, experts from the Rio Grande Valley to Washington said Monday.
President Bush's plan to send up to 6,000 National Guardsmen to the border in support of the Border Patrol - not for front-line enforcement duty - was met with some skepticism.
"It's perfectly clear that this makes much more political than operational sense," said Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Bill Clinton. "Operationally, it's really hard to picture how this can make a lot of difference."
Sheriffs, lawmakers and border-security experts said the administration's plan owes more to politics than effective control of a border where 1.1 million illegal immigrants were caught last year.
The plan "is so foolish as to be laughable if the issue wasn't so serious," said Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat who spent 26 years in the Border Patrol. "What we're seeing here is a careening from one side to the other of an administration that is clueless about what they ought to be doing to protect our country's borders."
Critics said the Guard deployment does nothing to address the root cause of illegal immigration - the seemingly endless supply of jobs for foreign workers whose lack of legal status is offset by their willingness to work for lower wages.
Among the other concerns: Use of troops in a law enforcement setting could prove dangerous to soldiers and civilians alike, and the mission could harm the National Guard's ability to respond to hurricanes, wildfires or other disasters.
And some fear that the Guard, already stressed by extended foreign deployments, is ill-positioned to take on another mission. "These guys have been deployed two or three times. They don't have a family life. They cannot handle this," said Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Texas Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.