RGV Border Patrol Chief: National Guard is Needed
WESLACO – The Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol Chief Manuel Padilla Jr. responded to questions on Tuesday regarding the deployment of National Guard members to the Texas-Mexico border.
On Friday, 250 guard members were ordered to the border.
Padilla says the troops are welcome and are needed along the Rio Grande Valley Sector. His remarks were made at the same time Border Patrol statistics reflect March 2018 to be a peak month in apprehensions for this fiscal year.
Even though the numbers haven’t reached record levels, such as the ones we reached in 2014, the steep increase is concerning agents who already deal with limited assets.
According to Border Patrol Spokesperson Robert Rodriguez, about half of those apprehended are family units and unaccompanied minor. He says the other half is legitimate traffic of people evading arrest.
“The effect of that is depletion of manpower because agents now have to go and to process these masses of family units and unaccompanied children, which leads to smugglers exploiting areas,” he says, “making our areas more vulnerable because we have a depletion of manpower in the field.”
Padilla explained the purpose of the National Guard deployment to the border is a “stop-gap measure” until they are capable enough to “address the border insecurity.”
He used the word "insecurity" when referring to the Rio Grande Valley Sector. The region accounts for 42 percent of all marijuana seizures along the Southwest border and 40 percent of apprehensions.
He says half of those apprehensions, however, are groups actively seeking agents once they cross the border into the U.S.
“We're not necessarily apprehending these family units and these unaccompanied children. In a sense, they're kind of apprehending us because they're looking for the first Border Patrol agent to turn themselves in to. They're not attempting to evade arrest,” Rodriguez explained.
On Friday, Border Patrol agents encountered two separate groups who entered the country illegally; one of 75 people, and another 37. All were unaccompanied children or family units.
Rodriguez said more agents respond to large groups seeking asylum because they have to process paperwork and run background checks.
He explained they often need more agents to respond to larger groups for safety.
“You really don't know who you're encountering. We know that they're family units and that they're unaccompanied children coming in, but you don't know who's mixed in with that group.”
Rodriguez said on occasion agents have discovered criminals, such as sex offenders and gang members, traveling among the pack.
In spite of the heavy push for help by Padilla, some people living along the border disagree with the National Guard members patrolling the border.
The military personnel only serve as eyes and manpower – they do not serve as law enforcement. Some said they’d rather see more Border Patrol agents on the front line.