WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
26 May 2010 | News

WOLA Raises Questions about President Obama’s Call Up of National Guard Troops to U.S. – Mexico Border

The Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights and social justice advocacy group in Washington, expressed alarm at press reports indicating that the Obama administration will ask Congress for $500 million to enhance security along the border with Mexico, including funds for up to 1,200 National Guard troops.

First and foremost, an important distinction must be clarified: whether these National Guard troops would be deployed under the authority of Title 10 or Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the law that governs the United States. This distinction is important. Under Title 10, the deployment would constitute the use of a federalized military force in contravention of the important legal concept of Posse Comitatus, a law which prohibits a U.S. military role in domestic law enforcement activities. Alternatively, under Title 32, state governors have the prerogative to use the National Guard for state requirements.

In the event that this deployment would occur under Title 32 authority, it appears that the President, in his supplemental request, is unilaterally taking the lead in what should be a response to a formal request from state governors.

So far, WOLA staff inquiries of administration officials on this matter have yielded no clarity.

Whether or not this deployment is occurring under Title 10 or Title 32 authority, "This is no substitute for genuine reform to our broken immigration system or to our insufficient civilian law enforcement capacity in border zones," said George Withers, Senior Fellow for security policy at the Washington Office on Latin America.

"It is ironic that the administration is turning to the military on our side of the border at a time when Mexico's government has actually begun pulling troops out of cities like Ciudad Juarez, after realizing that militarization doesn't work," Withers added.

This new National Guard deployment, the third in four years, could essentially be "Operation Jump Start 3." The repeated use of the Guard to enhance law enforcement capabilities should make it clear that military force is not the solution. Instead, supplemental funds should be addressing the needs of the U.S. government's legitimate law enforcement agencies.


George Withers, Senior Fellow
Washington Office on Latin America
[email protected]