Arkansas National Guard deploys to U.S.-Mexico border

by Vern Evans

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will again send members of the Arkansas National Guard to the southern U.S. border in Texas to assist state authorities working to curb illegal immigration.

Roughly 40 Arkansas guardsmen and women will deploy from April 1 to May 30 to Eagle Pass, Texas, according to the governor’s office.

The deployment of Arkansans had been expected since Sanders visited the border last month alongside 14 other GOP governors in a show of support for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Members of the Arkansas Guard’s 142nd Field Artillery Brigade will help the Texas National Guard with surveillance and reconnaissance.

“President Biden opened our southern border to an invasion of illegal immigrants, drugs, and human trafficking and is now criticizing Texas for stepping up where his administration has failed,” Sanders said in a statement. “I’ve seen the crisis our President created firsthand, and I know the incredible men and women of the Arkansas Guard can help supplement Texas’ efforts to keep our border secure and our states safe.”

Texas authorities have sought to more aggressively police the Lone Star State’s border with Mexico as disagreements with the federal government over immigration enforcement have worsened and the number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving at the border reaches historical levels.

Sanders’ office announced the deployment just before the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the stay on a controversial Texas state law, meaning — at least while the court appeal plays out — Texas can arrest and deport migrants who enter the state without authorization. The power to enforce immigration law has traditionally fallen to the federal government, and the Biden administration has argued that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it infringes on that authority.

The case has been stuck in a legal back-and-forth after initially being struck down as unconstitutional.

Nonetheless, Texas has erected razor wire along the Rio Grande and installed buoys across the river to block people from crossing.

Next month’s trip will be the Arkansas Guard’s second deployment to the southern border under Sanders. Last July, about 80 soldiers went to the border to assist Texas authorities.

Last year’s deployment cost the state an estimated $1.3 million. The Guard estimates next month’s mission will cost the state $1.01 million, though a spokesman noted that number could change depending on several variables.

The state Guard also sent 40 guardsmen to the southern border in 2021 for 90 days. That mission was primarily to recover and repair vehicles belonging to a Texas task force at the border.

The Arkansas Guard also deployed troops between 2006-2008 in support of the federal Operation Jump Start under former President George W. Bush, providing more than 750 soldiers and airmen in support of the Border Patrol.

“The Arkansas National Guard has a rich history of helping neighboring states in a crisis,” said Maj. Gen. Jonathan Stubbs, Adjutant General of the Arkansas Guard. “We assisted Texas last year, and have done so under previous administrations. Our soldiers will be well prepared and ready to assist the Texas National Guard’s operations.”

The Guard members will remain under Sanders’ command in Texas, while the Texas Guard will remain the lead agency.

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