Focus on Silvestre Reyes, the Border Patrol Congressman

Among Democrats widely quoted as opposing Bush’s plan to send National Guard to the border is Sylvestre Reyes, Democratic Congressman from El Paso and a 26 (and 1/2) year veteran of the border patrol.

During congressional debate last week on the National Defense Authorization Act, Reyes spoke favorably of “close cooperation” between the military and the border patrol, but he drew the line against deploying troops.

Reyes, who once served as Sector Chief of the El Paso border patrol, praised Defense Department contributions to “Joint Task Force North” along the border, “in specific consortium projects such as building roads, building infrastructure support such as strategic fencing in certain parts of the border area.” But when it came time to vote on authorization to send troops (in the form of the paradoxically titled Goode amendment) Reyes was strongly opposed:

“The reality of this amendment is that it is very expensive. It provides authority to the Department of Defense that already exists with the President of the United States should an emergency come up or an emergency exist. It is a bad idea because we need trained, experienced professionals on that border. That border is way too dangerous for us to be sending troops that are trained primarily for combat into a law enforcement situation, understanding that that capability is in reserve, because the President of the United States has that authority.”

Joined by Ortiz

Joining Reyes in opposition to a militarized border was Rep. Solomon Ortiz:

“I have been a law enforcement officer, and served in the Army,” said Ortiz, who once served as Sheriff of Nueces County. “We are talking about two vastly different things–protecting the borders–and using the military in law enforcement.”

Ortiz favored other plans endorsed by Bush during Monday night’s speech, such as more detention centers for OTMs (other than Mexicans) and more border guards.

“Even if we caught every single illegal immigrant crossing our border, we would still have no place to hold them, and we would be forced to release them–as we are doing now,” said Ortiz.

“We should be focused on the need for professional law enforcement officers/intelligence associated with knowing who is coming across our borders … and providing funds to hold them,” concluded Ortiz in extended remarks inserted into the Congressional Record of May 11, 2006.

Hypocrisy as Crisis

Hypocritical is a word that Reyes used to discredit the push for troops when other measures would deflate the “pull” to which illegal immigrants respond.

“One of the things, an observation that I will make about us is that oftentimes we are very hypocritical about the things that we say versus the things that we do in the people’s House,” said Reyes.

“In 1986, we passed employer sanctions to address the pull factor in the issue of illegal immigration and immigration reform. This Congress failed to fund employer sanctions, failed to fund the very vehicle that would have addressed the pull factor.

“For the last 10 years that I have been in Congress, we have been debating troops on the border. I would say to my good friend from West Virginia, my good friend from Arizona, my good friend from California, if we are interested in controlling the border, if we are truly interested in doing a good job for the American people, then let’s fund employer sanctions. And short of that, let’s fund H.R. 98, which gives us a fraud-proof Social Security card and a system where employers would be accountable. You would eliminate the pull factor. We wouldn’t need to have this useless debate on troops on the border.”

Reyes’ approach to border security earns the veteran border patrol officer a ranking of zero percent from the hard-line immigration watchdogs at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

Nukular Sanity, Too

Among his more interesting rankings is a 78 percent record from SANE, “indicating a pro-peace voting record.” Reyes voted against authorizing an invasion of Iraq in Oct. 2002.

As ranking member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, Rep. Reyes on May 10 addressed nuclear war policies, and indicated that Congress is charting a less hawkish trajectory than one recently revealed by Pentagon watchdogs.

In the short time that I have, I want to highlight three areas of bipartisan agreement: ballistic missile defense, conventional global strike capability, and operationally responsive space.

H.R. 5122 redistricts missile defense funding from longer-range programs, such as a multiple-kill vehicle, to near-term needs, such as buying upgrades for the Patriot and Aegis interceptors that can protect our servicemembers and allies today.

While we might disagree about whether further adjustments or reductions are possible from within the $10.4 billion for missile defense programs, I commend the subcommittee chairman for this good-faith effort and great work on this bipartisan agreement. This bill clearly reflects a bipartisan desire to obtain effective missile defense capabilities aimed at defeating real threats.

The bill also slows down development of an dvanced global strike capability using the Trident missile in a conventional capacity. While not precluding development of this capability, the subcommittee has concerns that basing a conventional Trident missile on a traditionally nuclear platform could lead to misinterpretation by both our friends and potential adversaries of a launch of a conventional missile. There are real strategic implications of pursuing this capability. We must ensure that we have done all we can to avoid the potential for conflict escalation through misinterpretation.

Finally, the bill as reported contains a $20 million add for operationally responsive space to encourage the Pentagon to pay more attention to the potential of smaller and less expensive satellites that might complement or supplement current expensive satellite systems designed for both military and intelligence purposes. We cannot expect small satellites to meet all mission requirements, but we need a more robust, focused effort to seriously explore their potential given the spiraling acquisition costs of our major satellite programs.

Mr. Chairman, there are differences in the way we approach some of these issues, but as we have seen this afternoon everyone gets an opportunity to express their views. Time does not permit me to describe in detail the rest of our subcommittee’s mark and important issues, but I again want to thank our chairman, Mr. Everett, for his bipartisan leadership, our chairman of the committee and ranking member, and I commend this bill to my colleagues and hope that everyone will support this.

As with his hard-earned background in border enforcement, Reyes drew praise from a colleague for having been “to the warfighting theaters more than any other Member of either body in this Congress.”–gm

‘Serious Questions’ posed by Congressman Reyes in a May 12 Press Release:

• Which troops will be deployed and how will this deployment affect the ongoing commitment of 24,000 Army National Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? How will this affect the 24-month call-up restriction?

• Under what authority will troops be deployed?

• What is the projected cost of a troop deployment to the Southern border, and have funds been identified for allocation to this new mission?

• What are the rules of engagement under which these troops will serve?

• Which agency will lead the operations? Will military troops be under the control of the civilian leadership of the Border Pa
trol which has the primary responsibility for securing our nation’s borders?

• What provisions have been made for the detention of persons in the border region by military members?

• What plans have been made to ensure that interoperable communications are available to allow military and civilian law enforcement personnel to communicate?

• Will Air Force or the other military branches provide air support? Has the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for aerial surveillance been coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration and will UAV aircraft including the Air Force’s Predator be available to support this troop deployment in light of the shortage of these air vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan?

PS: a footnote on the temptations of border technology.<

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