Two years ago today, the Obama Administration defended its decision to pull National Guard troops from along the border, reducing the National Guard’s presence to a mere 300 troops, a quarter of its previous size. The cut to boots on the ground came after 19 months of stationing 1,200 troops along the southern border in an effort to assist both Customs and Border Protection in spotting illegal entries, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement with criminal intelligence.
But the Administration not only reduced the size of the National Guard’s presence, it also moved the troops from the ground—where they could serve a deterrent effect to drug cartels and illegal aliens vying to cross the border—to the skies to conduct aerial surveillance. While aerial surveillance in and of itself along the border is not a bad thing, removing the physical presence of troops along the border all together is. According to media reports at the time, the 300 remaining troops were relegated to either flying aircraft or analyzing intelligence about smuggling routes in command centers miles from the border.
The Administration defended its decision by claiming that aerial surveillance technology would provide a new deterrent to illegal border crossers, as traffickers would no longer be able to easily avoid fixed-location entry identification teams along the border. However, since then the number of illegal aliens apprehended at the border has increased, showing that the Administration’s new aerial tactics are not working. In fiscal year 2013, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 414,397 illegal aliens at the southern border, an increase from the 356,873 illegal aliens apprehended along the border in fiscal year 2012 and the 327,577 illegal aliens apprehended along the border in fiscal year 2011.