'We Have A Dearth Of Manpower': National Guard Makes Way To Laredo

Apr 11, 2018

The first members of the National Guard in Texas have made their way to the U.S-Mexico border following a call to action by President Trump. The Laredo border patrol sector says it would welcome the help.

The Laredo section of the Texas-Mexico border spans 170 miles and contains no walls or fences.

Border Patrol Chief Greg Burwell said it's a challenge to keep tabs on all of it.

“Access to the actual river, to the border, is difficult for us. Even in the best of times — when all of our cameras are working — we can see roughly 30 percent of our area of operation,” he said. There are only four miles of paved road along the Laredo segment of the border.

On Saturday, five planners from the National Guard arrived in the Laredo border patrol sector, where they heard requests and operational input from Burwell and his staff.

“There's always a dialogue back and forth between the Defense Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” Burwell said. “We did a data call saying what we needed.”

Burwell said National Guard troops will act in an administrative and support capacity: clearing roads, maintaining vehicles, and scanning for border crossings by air. He said that border patrol agents normally don’t participate in trainings with the Defense Department because their duties are “really disparate.”

“The way things stand right now, National Guard troops won’t be working in an official law enforcement capacity,” Burwell said. “So the information I've got so far is that they won't be armed, and they won't be in roles where they would interact with the people that we're arresting, that we're looking for, the criminals, things like that.”

The Laredo border patrol sector has requested 270 National Guard troops, which Burwell expects will arrive “very soon,” though he did not have a precise date. He said most of the southwest border sectors will receive National Guard support.

“We lack in infrastructure. We have a dearth of manpower. So we welcome the help,” he said. “More eyes in the sky for us, more help on the ground, more behind-the-scenes type stuff is a really big deal for us.”

Carson Frame can be reached at carson@tpr.org or on Twitter @carson_frame