President Obama has defended his plans to further militarize the US border with Mexico. On Tuesday, Obama said he would deploy an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to the southern border and ask Congress for an extra $500 million for border security. We get reaction from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who says border militarization advocates are trying to avoid comprehensive immigration reform. [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZALEZ: Congressman Grijalva, while we have you on the phone, I’d like to ask you about another topic: President Obama’s decision to employ National Guard troops to the southern border. He addressed this at Thursday’s news conference.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, with respect to the National Guardsmen and women, I have authorized up to 1,200 National Guardspersons, in a plan that was actually shaped last year. So this is not simply in response to the Arizona law. And what we find is, is that National Guardspersons can help on intelligence, dealing with both drug and human trafficking along the borders. They can relieve border guards, so that the border guards then can be in charge of law enforcement in those areas. So there are a lot of functions that they can carry out that helps leverage and increase the resources available in this area.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to the President’s latest actions and its impact on your state of Arizona?
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Well, we have already close to 646 miles of fence along the US-Mexico border. We have 20,000 Border Patrol personnel along the US-Mexico border, and much of it concentrated in Arizona. That’s about an 80 percent increase from 2004. So I see the 1,200 National Guards as political symbolism, quite frankly. The impact of their presence is political cover for both those colleagues that feel that they’re in difficult districts, that they must show that they’re tough on enforcement.
And here we go again. The appetite of the people that want to have troops on the border and do not want to deall with comprehensive reform, it’s insatiable. All they’re going to talk about is troops. McCain gets on the floor of the Senate, says, "That’s not enough. I need 3,000 alone in Arizona." The impact is very, very —- it’s symbolism. And the impact is going to be minimal to none, because you are not going to deal with the security issue and the US-Mexico border and the violence without coupling any enforcement activity with comprehensive reform and all the other aspects of it. So -—
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Grijalva, will you be at the major rally — expected thousands of people in Phoenix — the National Day of Action Against Arizona’s Immigration Law?
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: I’m going to — I’m making every effort to get there.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much for being with us, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Raul Grijalva is the Congress member from Tucson.