You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Homeland Security chief won't rule out using National Guard to deal with immigration surge

Jun. 24, 2014 - 08:31PM   |  
Jeh Johnson, Ronald D. Vitiello, Craig Fugate.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, center, listens as Deputy Chief of Border Patrol Ronald D. Vitiello, right, testifies June 24 on Capitol Hill at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing regarding the growing problem of unaccompanied children crossing the border into the US. At left is Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate. (Charles Dharapak / AP)
  • Filed Under

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress on Tuesday he would consider every conceivable, lawful option to deal with a continuing flood of immigrants crossing the U.S. border illegally from Mexico into southern Texas.

Johnson told the House Homeland Security Committee that he won’t rule out using National Guard troops, as several lawmakers have suggested, but he warned that there are limitations to using troops to help manage what has become a humanitarian crisis at the border.

“I’ve heard the calls from some that we put the Guard on the border. I’d want to understand better what the options are for the use of the Guard,” Johnson told lawmakers during more than two hours of questioning. “But there are definitely some limitations on the use of the Guard in this respect, I think, and we have to be mindful of those.”

The White House indicated later in the day it wasn’t interested in the proposal to deploy troops.

“There has already been a historic commitment of resources to the border,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Since the start of the budget year last October, Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 52,000 immigrant children crossing the border alone. Most of the young immigrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and have been caught in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

At the same time, the Border Patrol has arrested more than 39,000 adults with children. An unknown number of those immigrants have been released with notices to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices near their final destinations inside the United States.

The administration has refused to say how many of those people have been released or how many have reported as ordered. Earnest told reporters Tuesday that he did not have the number but added, “Without knowing what that number is and without having seen it, I think we can all stipulate that that number is too high.”

In the mid-2000s, President George W. Bush twice deployed National Guard troops to the border to help augment the Border Patrol as it bolstered its ranks. The agency has more than doubled in size since then, with more than 21,000 agents.

While troops were deployed, they were prohibited under federal law from performing law enforcement duties and instead conducted surveillance and helped with maintenance issues.

Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald Vitiello testified Tuesday that while the influx of children traveling alone and adults crossing the border illegally with children has strained resources in South Texas, it hasn’t necessarily created a security problem.

“It’s not a challenge to arrest people who come as children or families with children,” Vitiello said. Many illegal border-crossers don’t try to elude border agents and quickly surrender once they encounter agents.

The challenge, he and Johnson explained, is processing the immigrants and finding places to house them.

The surge of children has prompted the Homeland Security Department to start flying some of the immigrants to Arizona for processing. Military bases in Texas, California and Oklahoma are also being used or readied to house children until they can be placed with relatives or sponsors. All the child immigrants face deportation, but with a backlog of as many as 30,000 pending cases in federal immigration courts it will likely take years before a judge will order many of the children out.

Also Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner announced a working group of lawmakers to focus on the situation at the border.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook