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Texas National Guard has little power in immigration enforcement

With all of the rhetoric about immigration crack-downs along the U.S.-Mexico border that have occurred throughout recent years, one important fact often fails to catch the public's attention. Even though Texas National Guard troops and others may work to bolster security along the border, military members who are not designated as Border Patrol are not able to detain those who are entering the country illegally. Instead, when National Guard and other military groups are sent to the border, politicians are generally simply trying to send an immigration message -- the actual "crack-down" on those illegally entering the country may not actually exist.

So, then, why else might military groups be sent to patrol the border and bolster Border Patrol numbers? Military members can often serve as lookouts. They also scout important intelligence for those who are actually qualified to apprehend illegal immigrants who cross the border. These soldiers work hand-in-hand with law enforcement groups, representatives of which are permitted to detain individuals who illegally enter the country.

Despite continued pressure to give these troops arresting powers, political higher-ups still say that the military members' ability to catch illegal immigrants on the border should be limited. Troops can be used for auxiliary and support services -- including building security fences -- but they are not a replacement for law enforcement officers along the border. Further, Texas National Guard members are only permitted to help enforce state laws, not federal mandates; remember that the border is considered a federal jurisdiction.

Such subtleties in U.S. Immigration law can make the difference between a successful immigration case and one that falls by the wayside. Immigrants should know their rights -- and they should be aware that National Guard representatives do not have the right to detain those found crossing the border. Although sending troops to the border can send a political message, this action may not have a significant impact on the number of people crossing the border at any given time.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Texas National Guard faces limited powers on the border" Kevin Diaz, Jul. 23, 2014

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