Seven House Democrats, including the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, are seeking more information from the Trump administration on the decision to deploy National Guard units to the U.S.-Mexico border.
In an April 11 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Democrats state they oppose the deployment and add it "is not to be made lightly." Reps. Bennie Thompson (MS), Adam Smith (WA), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Elijah Cummings (MD), Filemon Vela (TX), Zoe Lofgren (CA) and Stephen Lynch (MA) signed the letter.
The lawmakers point out border apprehensions over the past few months are “significantly lower” than rates during the past two administrations.
“We require a clearer explanation of the impetus for this approach at a time when border crossings are at a 40-year low,” they write. They also question the authority behind using the National Guard as “an immediate deterrent” against asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors, as described by a DHS press release.
The lawmakers request answers on a series of 11 questions:
- When was the assessment completed that identified deployment of the National Guard as a necessity? What factors or criteria were used to determine this approach would be the most effective and cost-efficient alternative? Please provide a copy of this assessment.
- Under what authority will the National Guard be deployed? What duties or roles will they fulfill? What authority or other guidance will govern the use of force by National Guard personnel?
- How does this deployment impact the U.S. Border Patrol's overall border security strategy?
- How many service members and National Guard members will be involved, what is the length of their deployment and the estimated cost of their activities?
- Please provide a detailed breakdown, by funding line, of the specific accounts that will be used to fund this effort.
- Will the funding for this effort require any reprogramming action, to include below-threshold or those that will require written congressional approval?
- Will National Guard members be armed during their deployments?
- What scheduled training activities were deferred by units and personnel in order to conduct this deployment?
- Per the joint statement issued by Secretaries Nielsen and Mattis on April 6, 2018, please describe the “security vulnerabilities” identified by DHS that will be addressed by the National Guard and how.
- Per the joint statement issued by Secretaries Nielsen and Mattis on April 6, 2018, please explain what standard both DHS and DOD will use to determine “our nation's borders are secure” to end the deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Please provide the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between DHS, DOD, the National Guard Bureau, and relevant governors that will govern this upcoming deployment. Please also provide the MOUs for Operation Jump Start and Operation Phalanx.
Last week, the Pentagon announced it was standing up a new border security cell to support President Trump's decision to send National Guard troops to the border.