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National Guard Troops Sent To The U.S.-Mexico Border


The first National Guard troops are arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is part of President Trump's push for troops to counter what he calls a surge of illegal activity on the Southern border. Terry Shigg is a U.S. Border Patrol agent and a spokesperson for the union that represents the agents in San Diego, and he spoke recently with our co-host Noel King.

NOEL KING, BYLINE: Agent Shigg, is there a crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border right now?

TERRY SHIGG: Yes. I think the one thing that needs to be confirmed is, there is a crisis, and the crisis is due to a lack of manpower that we have at the Border Patrol and the new threats that we're facing from criminal organizations. The drugs, the opioid crisis - that starts at the border. That's where all those things are coming through. So in our opinion, yes, there is a crisis.

KING: All right, what does the crisis look like? You said you're short-staffed, you're undermanned, and you've got drugs coming through. Tell me, on a daily basis, what does this look like from where you're sitting?

SHIGG: From where I'm sitting in San Diego sector, we have different levels of security from fencing and walls, but the one thing that is consistent is that every station along the Southwest border is short of manpower. One of the things that has not changed is the criminal organizations that control the pass and the flow of drugs and people across the border. They have more manpower and more resources. So that's made it easier for the flow of drugs and the flow of people to get across.

KING: So are National Guard troops exactly the kind of help you need?

SHIGG: Yeah. From past details that I've been on, we've worked closely with the National Guard. I've been there personally and witnessed it from everywhere from Tucson, Ariz., El Centro, Calif., to here in San Diego. And what that allows us to do is when the National Guard comes in, they are able to support us in the way that allows our law enforcement officers to be in the critical areas, enforcing the immigration laws and the drug laws, as opposed to doing things such as vehicle maintenance or radio operations or camera surveillance.

KING: Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both sent National Guard troops to the border, as well. Is this time different, somehow?

SHIGG: From our standpoint, no, it's not any difference. The logistics, the way that it's done would be the exact same thing. It's worked in the past, so I don't see a need to actually tweak that system. The only difference now is the crisis is a little bit more of a priority, and it's taken the national stage more. But from the ground-troops level, no, it hasn't changed.

KING: President Trump says these troops will stay until a wall is built - until the wall is built. If you had the president's ear, what would you ask for?

SHIGG: We'd ask for the same thing we've been asking for for the last 10 years, which is more manpower, more resources, more roads, more cameras. Just all across the board, we are below what we need and what's necessary to properly secure the border.

KING: We've talked to other people on MORNING EDITION - the mayor of El Paso, most notably - who do not think that this is a good idea, who say, look, the border is the border, and yes, there are challenges, but what we don't need is the National Guard coming in. What's going on - is something happening differently in Texas than it is in California?

SHIGG: No. I would say that those politicians are doing exactly what their title dictates. They are being politicians. They're not actually on the ground, actually talking to the citizens that are within their country or the agents that are - and law enforcement officers that are attempting to protect those areas because any of them that you talk to will tell you that this is a good thing. It's not going to militarize the border because, again, they will not be doing law enforcement actions. They will be doing support, resource actions that allow the trained law enforcement officers to do that job.

KING: Terence Shigg is a U.S. Border Patrol agent in San Diego, Calif. Agent Shigg, thank you so much for being with us.

SHIGG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.