Bloggers Note: Few issues infuse more provocative rhetoric into National Security debates than the plight of the unaccompanied children detained at the U.S. border. Most recently, Gov. Jerry Brown criticized as “misguided” the action of Texas Governor Rick Perry in ordering National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico. Brown did not say what specific actions could be taken on the border.
Should Americans be concerned about children? Absolutely. But are humanitarian goals at odds with the deployment of the National Guard to protect our borders? Hardly. People who know how to sneak children through our border can sneak terrorists. The National Guard can help stop the sneaking. Then the politicians can deal with detained children any way they want.
But politicians are leveraging the plight of the border–detained children–to win news coverage and voters. Undeserving victims may include our national security and State officials, both requiring public support (and funding) for National Guard missions that have done more to secure our borders and facilitate humanitarian goals than many people (and apparently) Jerry Brown realize.
Border security is a massive and expensive undertaking that only the national government is equipped to execute. When our national government becomes bogged down, the resulting problem, in the form of illegal entry and unattended children, flows down to the State level. This article reviews options open to the Border States when Federal initiatives are bogged down in the face of budget fights and politically conflicted bureaucracies. I know since I served nearly 10 years of my nearly 30-year military career on Counterdrug duty successfully countering anti-military campaigns, analyzing threats to California, preparing literature and briefs for California’s elected leaders, and outmaneuvering the Federal and State bureaucracy when they threatened completion of the “mission.” Based on this experience, I write about the Humanitarian Crisis and terrorist threat from the following perspectives:
- California’s Elected leaders call for Humanitarian response;
- The three challenges of the border mission–illegal immigration, drug trade, and terrorism;
- Impact of California’s barrier system on Texas’ border crisis;
- History–Reforms on Both sides of the border;
- The narco terrorism and radical Islamic terrorism threat;
- Bilateral Security Agreements-Are they working?
- Private-Public Partnerships–cutting through the red tape of Bureaucracy and saving Taxpayers money;
- The “Religious Call;” and
- Policy options for a coordinated response;
I conclude with evaluating our California’s leaders proposed response.
In July, California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and a delegation of state lawmakers traveled to El Salvador and Guatemala to explore what California can do to meet the humanitarian challenges presented by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S. border.
A July 20, 2014 Sacramento Bee editorial titled, “”While D.C. Dawdles, Locals Step up on Border Crisis,” applauded Steinber’s trip as well as humanitarian efforts by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Goading our Federal Government for its inability to take action, the Editorial Board noted, “If that doesn’t shame federal leaders, then perhaps the increasing international attention will,” quoting a letter from the Pope calling on the international community to pay attention to this challenge. The editorial concluded, “The world is starting to pay serious attention to the plight of thousands of refugee children. When will Washington do the same?”
A week later, Capital Alert reported Jerry Brown’s comment from Mexico City that Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ordering of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to address the surge in border crossings is misguided, and urged politicians instead to heed the “religious call … to welcome the stranger” in addressing the crisis. “These are children, and many of them have relatives that are in California and other parts of the United States who are working, contributing to the well-being of people in the United States,” Brown said. “So given the principle of family values and family reconciliation, I want to give utmost consideration to what is in the best interest of those children, not what is in the best interest of politicians who might want to exploit this particular topic.”
If Governor Brown had compelling reasons for criticizing Perry’s use of the National Guard, he might have been prudent to have listed them. Standing alone, his comment portrays the National Guard deployment as a bully tactic that prevents children from receiving treatment. This stirs public ignorance regarding the real value of the National Guard which, by the way, actually increases safety for illegal immigrants.
Comments opposing a National Guard role play into the hands of narco and radical Islamic terrorists who spin the illegal immigration issue to cloud the national security danger, and enervate international initiatives, reforms, and treaties. Comments that urge religious initiatives to the exclusion of national guard participation pose more of a “clear and present danger” than the underlying humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian problems at the border cannot be solved independently, without simultaneous effort to maintain border security.
Three Heads of the Hydra: illegal immigration, Drug Trade and Terrorism
The Southwest border crisis poses formidable challenges, and four Border States have become the staging grounds for three of our nation’s greatest threats:
- Underground Railroad. A group of independent, well meaning U.S. interests serves—unwittingly or indifferently–as the savior of transportation systems that bring illegal aliens into the US. This coalition, no less effective than the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape to free states in the 1850s-1860s, has turned four Southwest Border States into portals for organized illegal entry. It comprises:
- Immigrants already in the US,
- US business interests dependent upon cheap labor,
- State and local politicians whose elections depend on immigrant voters,
- Congressmen and constituents sympathetic to illegal immigrants filling low-pay jobs their children won’t take,
- Elements of foreign governments whose economies are buoyed by the US dollars being funneled to relatives of immigrants working in the US, and
- Public relations campaigns funded by anti-US interests that are designed to fuel division within the US that bogs down border security initiatives.
This coalition is not an operational threat. It is not made up of bad people. It doesn’t move people across the border. But it is nonetheless the most formidable obstacle to boarder security because it splinters US support required for an effective, monolithic response. It is the lifeline for the two following threats.
- Illegal drugs. Simple logic tells us that any transportation system that can regularly sneak people illegally into the US can sneak illegal drugs into the US. Few criminal enterprises are more lucrative than the drug trade, and big money generates its own mandates and momentum. Illegal drug trade organizations are fiercely motivated, organized, financed, and smart. Just as the CIA reportedly partners with elements subversive to our potential enemies, drug trade organizations have a natural incentive to infiltrate or become illegal immigration networks, which provide cover.
- Terrorism. Here too simple logic tells us that any organization capable of moving illegal drugs into the US also possesses the expertise to snuggle in bombs, chemicals and other weapons. Organizations that know how to smuggle illegal aliens into the US can as easily smuggle in members of terrorist cells. As we learned from 3,860 kamikaze pilots, no enemy is more motivated, relentless and dangerous that one who believes that sacrificing its members’ lives in the name of God is life’s most noble accomplishment. As with the drug trade, terrorism can be funded by sympathetic mid-east oil interests. For well funded terrorists, nothing offers more target rich opportunity than organizations that smuggle people and drugs into the US for money.
The Federal response is fragmented and underfinanced. Much of the spillover falls upon individual states, each of which is constrained by its own budgets, conflicting policy objectives and political pressures.
The security of our country requires a coordinated Federal effort. But when the Federal response is impeded by political and budgetary constraints, the Border States must deal with the mess. A coordinated state response can never fix the problem, but it can make clean up easier.
Dealing With the Unsolvable Problem
The barrier wall is inordinately expensive and indisputably disrupts the lives of many Americans. It generates endless opposition from land owners, businesses, environmentalists, and budget offices. Opponents impede funding by asserting that the Wall can’t prevent determined aliens from finding a way in to the US and that the Wall is not cost effective.
But in a real sense, it doesn’t matter if both criticisms are true. Americans do not want another 9/11. No responsible government can abandon its border security responsibilities simply because terrorism prevention is expensive or because a determined terrorist will eventually gain entry despite our best efforts. Israel’s border wall is reportedly very effective.
California, perhaps better than any of the four Southwestern Border states, understands why the current influx of children at the Texas border is a “National Interest” byproduct of California’s “Fence”—or more appropriately “barrier system” that has motivated Mexican gangs and Cartels to flood human cargo through Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico to distract U.S. authorities from their drug smuggling operations.
Impact of California’s Barrier System on Today’s Crisis
California National Guard initiated the barrier system in 1990 in response to President Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Directive-221—-”Narcotics and National Security,” implemented to protect the safety and security of the United States, and it has been effective in doing so. It was not originally designed to stop illegal immigration.
California has contributed more than dollars and labor to anti-drug enforcement. Three California National Guard aviators Chief Warrant Officer Geoffrey L. Nett , 2nd Lt. Eric J. Smeltzer, Sgt. Ramon M. Espinoza, and Southern California sheriff deputies Roy A. Chester, James D. McSweeney, Richard G. Romero, Mark Steven Tonkin, and Michael David Davis, paid the ultimate sacrifice when they perished in a fiery helicopter crash 63 miles east of San Diego during Border Ranger II in 1989.
These Californians were not training to stop illegals, but Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) intent on infiltrating the U.S. border and draining the U.S. economy. Opponents of the fence undermine it by fanning debate about “militarizing the border,” ignoring the fact, detailed below, that the Guard’s participation rendered the border safer–not for the authorities policing it, but–for those crossing it either legally or illegally.
A Unique Contribution
Private enterprise certainly has the skills to design and build walls. But California’s National Guard brought unique expertise when its engineers reshaped terrain adjoining the fence. The Guard-designed wall is so effective in deterring drug smuggling (and entry of terrorists) because it is modeled on military concepts for canalizing the enemy into “kill zones” where “friendly forces” can trap their aggressors and rain death and destruction down upon them with artillery and airpower. Of course the barrier system implemented by the California National Guard has a nonviolent application. The first Counterdrug Task Force Commander, Lt. Col. (Retired) William Hipsley—a gifted analyst and organizer—simply converted the military concept known as “IPB” –intelligence preparation of the battlefield– to intelligence preparation of the border. Hipsley’s cadre of military intelligence analysts worked with civilian drug law enforcement agencies (DLEAs) to apply military intelligence methodology of “predictive analysis” to determine when, where, and how DTOs would attempt to penetrate California’s border.
Armed with this information, Border Patrol and DLEA agents could drive and trap them into those zones where authorities besiege them with civilian law enforcement officers.
A significant Contribution
By 1994, Capt (retired) Wade Rowley, the original Counterdrug Team Engineer Commander, and his engineers paved, graded, and repaired more than 700 miles of road network that the border patrol now uses to detour, herd, and chase intruding DTOs into these natural terrain traps. The engineers had moved more than a million cubic yards of earth from Goat’s Canyon, Smuggler’s Gulch, and Otay Mesa — “enough dump trucks to stretch from San Diego to Bangor, Maine—two times,” Rowley once said. Collectively, the Counterdrug Task Force forced smugglers on routes east of Campo, CA by 1994 and eventually into Arizona.
Making the Border Safer for Illegal Migration
More importantly, the barrier system saved the lives of countless people migrating to California illegally. The border patrol now had roads and access for interrupting rapes, extortion, murders and other violent crimes among human trafficker escorts–known as coyotes–against their cargo–called “mules”–as much as 90 percent at some locations along the border. Buoyed by the early success of Rowley’s barrier system, Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-CA pushed through legislation in 1994 mandating that Rowley’s fence be extended with “double fence” another 14 miles east from San Diego.
Human Trafficking as a Diversionary Tactic
Still, the Mexican Government continued to encourage illegal migration around the fence and into the deserts near El Centro, CA through programs such as Ventanillas de Salud–Mexican Government promotional campaigns instructing illegals how to access free health care and other government benefits within California. The cartels quickly took advantage of such programs by muscling into the human trafficking trade. The cartels simply planted small amounts of marijuana on illegal aliens using them as decoys to draw out authorities while enveloping their contraband around the canalization zones.
Reform Movements on Both Sides of the Border
California Gov. Pete Wilson perhaps recognized the illegal immigrants’ plight as pawns of both the Mexican Government and the cartels when he deployed National Guard Counterdrug forces to the border in 1994–their mission was to secure the border. In hindsight, Wilson’s action–sensitive to the Treaty of Hidalco Guadalupe and within the parameters of drug enforcement–was in synch with other 1994 initiatives, policies, and political activities on both sides of the border. Policy makers in both California and Mexico shifting away from the failed Mexican socialist contractual policies that enslaved the country’s free-market growth potential and reliance on illegal immigration and illegal drugs as part of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In California, voters approved Proposition 187–immigration reform. The ballot measure supported by both Gov. Wilson and Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein countered the Mexican government’s campaigns promoting illegal immigration , discouraged illegal migration, and encouraged legal immigration. Across the border, the Presidential Campaign of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, promised to rebuild Mexico’s economic independence and wean it off the illegal immigration and the cartel black markets fueling the Isthmus’ economy.
Colosio, an economist, was arguably the best qualified Mexican leader capable of equitably implementing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to free his country from the corporatist social contract policies in place since the Los Cristero War, as depicted in the movie, “For Greater Glory” (1926-1929). The Los Cristero war fought by the Mexican people against an atheistic Mexican government ended in a stalemate with the Catholic Church.
Colosio’s assassination during a campaign rally in Tijuana on March 23, 1994 arguably dimmed Mexico’s hopes removing this albatross and streamlining Mexico’s progress toward its potential as the world’s 5th largest economy. Some historians compare the impact of Colosio’s premature death to that of President John F. Kennedy. His death empowered the drug cartels to maintain its chokehold on the Mexican government, and sanctioned the status quo PRI policies suppressing economic opportunities and encouraging illegal immigration.
Lacking the Colosio influence, Wilson’s action to deploy California National Guard counterdrug forces to the border– in 1994– produced the effect of California’s border security outpacing Mexico’s economic and government reformation; further enslaving Mexican citizens to the in-place corporate social contact policies and Mexican drug cartels corruption.
Morphing into Narco Terrorism and Radical Islamic Terrorism
This resulting instability fueled a 2007 turf war, involving —the Arellano Felix Organizations, Ismael Zamboda, Juarez , Gulf, and Joaquin Guzman. The Los Zetas and Juarez cartels emerged as the two most powerful cartels, spreading their violence to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and even into middle U.S. states like Iowa.
These cartels probed for seams in California border through which to shoot their cargo while exploring less secure points through Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. These states became “staging areas” and “training camps” for narco-terrorists as documented by former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s book, “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for American’s Border.”
Tancredo says in his book that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported suspected training camps, one of them near Matamoros, Mexico, a few miles across the Rio Grande and south of Brownsville, Texas. These camps, operated by the Los Zetas, were training large numbers of people in paramilitary warfare and exotic explosives in collaboration with drug cartels and known terrorist organizations to smuggle terrorists and weapons into the United States.
Mexican DTOs essentially morphed into narco terrorists, adapting to California’s wall by developing new access points into the U.S. through Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. authorities in check as they maximized access into the U.S. through Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. After 9-11, California’s barrier system served as a key deterrent by herding “Special Interest Aliens” (SIAs) from Special interests Countries (SICs)—Iran, Syria, Arabia, Afghanistan,Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yeman– into pockets where authorities could easily round them up and arrest them. During this process, California authorities identified SIAs with links to al Qaeda and Hezbollah from declassified information it received through the Joint Intelligence Community gathered by those U.S. Forces denying safe haven in SIC countries.
The cost/benefit of border protection such as California’s Wall becomes more attractive when pondering that many of our country’s fallback lines of defense are purportedly in the realm of black ops where mortality is a normal expectation. Marcus Lattrel’s book, Lone Survivor, invites the question of how many 9-11 type attacks were prevented by the Counterdrug Task Force with intelligence from U.S. forces deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan–such as Seal Team 10 which included Chico’s Matthew “Axe” Axelson–whose missions intercepted terrorist cells.
With the current threat of ISIS–Islamic State of Iraq and Syria–threat, however, one must ponder whether the Los Zetas skillful human trafficking campaign in Texas is a harbinger of things to come. If the nation doesn’t gain operational control of the entire border with Mexico, will it collapse our homeland security along the entire 2000 mile border? As noted below, there is merit to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s claim that ISIS has already slithered through the border onto U.S. soil.
The Merida Initiative: Disbanding the Cartels?
But Mexico mounted resistance to the cartels and their growing narco-terrorist affiliations. Thousands of Mexican police, military, and citizens in small Mexican cities and towns were victims of beheadings, bombings, and paramilitary warfare when they dared challenge the drug cartels and gangs while living up to the 2008 Merida Initiative between the United States and Mexico, according to an April 8, 2014 Congressional Research Service report titled: “U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation: The Merida Initiative and Beyond
While Mexicans suffered the brunt of this terrorism, the United States mobilized the National Guard several times during the first decade of the 21st Century to prevent its spillover into the United States. In one such instance, California’s Joint Task Force Vista (JTFV) was tasked with closing 13 miles of border during OPERATION JUMP START in 2007. When national debates and bureaucratic red tape bogged down resources needed to extend 700 miles of border barrier Congress approved under the 2006 Secure Border Act, JTFV deputy operations officer Maj. Rick Cobian, liaison officer 1LT Steve Krohn and myself, found a solution by partnering with private enterprise.
We had people sitting idle because we could not get rails through normal channels. After a bit of research, we were able to complete California’s wall, assembling its anti-vehicle barrier (ATB), by collaborating with the Iron Horse Preservation Society–to acquire barrier material, transport it, and deliver it to El Centro, CA.
By working with Iron Horse, we bypassed bureaucratic and political bottlenecks. This private-public partnership started JTFV welders who had been unable to work for lack of rail road rail, and saved taxpayers more than $60 million that they would have had to spend for travel, per diem, transportation, equipment and manpower to retrieve rail–needed to assemble anti-vehicle barriers (ATB)–from a Department of Defense Installation (DoD) installations. While the JTFV sidestepped a stalled Washington bureaucracy to complete its mission before the first OPERATION JUMP START concluded in October 2007, other states–especially Texas–struggle to compete the barrier system to this day.
While closing off California’s border tightened security here, it incentivized drug and illegal alien traffickers to fuel the Texas Humanitarian controversy to impede barrier construction in Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, and to use a flood of illegal aliens to distract authorities in other states.
The Call to Religion
Although the Pope called on the International community to welcome and protect the tens of thousands of children at the border with urgency, he added that this alone is insufficient. The Pontiff called upon the World to advance policies to discourage illegal immigration, encourage legally secure migration, and promote development in the countries of the children’s origin.
With the broad umbrella of the Pope’s full statement, and not the more limited restatement of it by Jerry Brown, California’s leaders can exercise leadership, not the passion of politics and special interests, to bring about the national coordinated humanitarian effort the Bee advocates.
Policy Options for Pursuing a Coordinated State Response to Border Security and Humanitarian Needs
- Federal Emergency Declaration–Petition President Barak Obama to declare the border crisis a federal emergency. This will release Federal Emergency Management Resources (FEMA) and FEMA Incident Command Systems (ICS) to organize grass-roots, state, and federal response to address the urgent needs of the unaccompanied children as the Pope advocates. ICS Task Forces authorities can erect temporary facilities on the border, manned with volunteer doctors, teachers, psychologists, and other professionals necessary to “welcome the stranger.” Meanwhile the FEMA ICS Task Forces can coordinates with the Immigration Nationalization Service (INS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAIDs) to safely reunite them their families in their country of origin in the spirit of “family values and family reconciliation” as Brown proposes. Perhaps with families in California, as Brown advocated, as a partial solution provided authorities can confirm the relationship. Isn’t it more in line with family values to ensure those claiming children are actually related? Or more humane to create safe and secure facilities at the border to care for children until they can be returned safely in lieu of scattering them on the streets of America hoping they will return for a scheduled INS hearing? “
- Grass Roots Leadership and Volunteerism. Use Private-Public Partnerships (PPP), such as the American Red Cross, Catholic and Interfaith Charities, to spearhead the humanitarian response as designed under the FEMA ICS. These organizations are structured and have experienced volunteers who can care, protect, provide medical care, and educate those afflicted by catastrophes. FEMA ICS Task Forces and the National Guard/U.S. Military would provide staffs to assist with administration and temporary facilities near the border for PPPs to care and educate the children. May PPPs are waiting for the call blocked only by bureaucratic scrabbling.
- Nation Building. Although the Bee notes that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has offered to shelter unaccompanied children, is this solution within the Pope’s religious call? Or is it just using taxpayers’ money so that politicians can say they are answering the religious call? Nation Building, such as what the California National Guard was involved during the 1990s in Panama, is a humane alternative with a proven track record. Under the direction of the U.S. Southern Command, the California National Guard successfully helped local leaders, businesses, and villagers build medical clinics, roads, and schools in the Province of Bocas del Toro in the late 90s. More importantly, the Guard brought the added dimension of connecting the Sacramento Community with the communities in Bocas del Toro through “Teachers Reaching Out”–a program eventually smothered through territorial battles of the State and U.S. Bureaucracies. Revitalizing Nation Building in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala–and using the National Guard’s embedded community-based contacts–falls along the same lines as Sen. Steinberg’s initiatives to find a permanent solution, sustains positive relationships, and creates a “monitoring” system, so to speak, for the children returned to their home country.
- Regional Security Agreements. Advocate the inclusion within the Merida Initiative of meaningful regional security partnerships with not only Mexico, but the Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and other Central and South American countries hosting drug smuggling and radical Islamic elements. All partners must share the regional security goal of eradicating narco terrorism and denying “safe haven” for radical Islamic terrorists on Western hemisphere soil.
- Coordination Among the Four Southwest Border States. Secure the entire Southwest Border through Memoranda of Agreement/Understanding (MOA/MOUs) and Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (EMAC) by summit meetings that explore ways for the four Southwest border state governors to share expertise, strategy, and low-cost resources that help participating States finalize fence and secure the entire 2,000 -mile border in lieu of a state-by-state solution.
- Establish a Dual Status Command (DSC)—Form a Dual Status Command for access to all military resources. Either Texas or Arizona National Guard General should have preference as DSC commander with staff consisting of the USNORTHCOM FEMA Region VI Title 10 Active Duty Deputy DSC Commander and staff, and staff members from the Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California National Guards.
• Revise the National Security Strategy (NSS) — Advocate expansion of the NSS’ scope with more emphasis on the Western hemisphere. Incorporate the goals of the Merida Initiative, deny safe haven to radical Islamic terrorist on Western hemisphere soil, define the role of all federal and state Homeland security agencies, grow the military’s role in nation building, and authorize the military a two multi-regional contingencies (MRC) strategy so that it can request Congress for the additional funding required to accomplish its extra missions.
- Military Force Protection– Sgt. Thahmoorssi is the second Mexican Military detainment–the first being former Marine Sgt. Jon Hammar. A third detention could be a trend terrorists see as lucrative opportunity to negotiate deals such as the Sgt. Bowe Burgdahl and five Talaban leaders. Urge Congress to release Sgt. Andrew Tahmoorssi as a condition for the $1.5 billion it appropriates Mexico through the Merida Initiative to reform their courts, police, and military institutions. As any student of Terrorism/Counterterrorism doctrine understands, terrorists organizations–possibly ISIS– observe the United States reaction to such situations.
As the list of foregoing options illustrates, there are solutions that might allow California (which manages the world’s ninth largest economy) and our sister border states to bring order and compassion to children while improving border security that is increasingly critical to thwart terrorism as well as drug trafficking.
While the Sacramento Bee maintains that the Pope’s words should ‘shame’ President Barak Obama and the Republican-led House into action, Gov. Brown’s criticism of a National Guard role reflects either a lack of understanding of the Guard’s contribution to border security or indifference.
Sen. Steinberg is arguably the real leader here by getting involved to find permanent solutions. Unfortunately, he is not running for Governor. To paraphrase the late President John F. Kennedy, is it time for a new generation of politicians–A generation compassionate enough to answer the “religious call,” yet bold enough to face down the State’s and Nation’s “Clear and Present Danger.”