Border securityFor border security, CBP agents are more suitable than National Guard soldiers

By Lee Maril

Published 17 April 2018

Rather than send the National Guard to bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border, it would have been better, and more cost-effective, to send more Customs and Border Patrol agents, whose training makes them more suitable for border security-related missions. But the problem is that the hiring process of CBP agents is broken and unnecessarily lengthy, requiring a thoroughgoing reform.

President Trump’s recent decision to send the National Guard to the Mexican border, under the authority granted in Title 32 of the U.S. Code, has evoked the expected responses from both his defenders and his critics. However, neither group has failed to address three crucial issues central to supporting or rejecting the wisdom of Trump’s 4 April 2018 memo to the Secretary of Defense. ().

Trump justifies his decision in mobilizing calling the National Guard to “…stop the flow of deadly drugs and other contraband, gang members and other criminals, and illegal aliens into this country.” No one can deny the National Guard’s training and effectiveness in war-related skills. The men and women of the National Guard are highly trained as soldiers of war. But we should first consider the appropriateness of the skills of the National Guard. The Mexican borderlands are, in spite of the rhetoric fashionable in our culture, not a war zone.


Also by Lee Maril:

“Trump’s union has long history of discrimination against female Border Patrol agents,” HSNW, 20 October 2016

 “Security facts about the border wall,” HSNW, 10 October 2016

 “New Border Patrol chief faces uphill battle to reform agency,” HSNW, 13 July 2016


Further, Title 32 strictly limits duties the National Guard is legally allowed to perform. They are prohibited from stopping and searching vehicles, pursuing suspected drug runners, human smugglers, or illegal aliens, and making any arrests.

Secondly, what in fact we most could use at the Mexican border is more Customs and Border Patrol Agents. These men and women are trained guards, not soldiers, and as such are skilled in the laws of immigration, the knowledge of borderlands terrain, tracking, communicating in Spanish, and the ability to distinguish between drug smugglers and individuals looking for jobs. Congress agrees we need more agents and has allocated funding in its recent omnibus bill for several thousand more CBP agents.