Amid record-setting migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, several Republican-led states as far away as South Dakota are mobilizing to send National Guard units to the region at the behest of the Republican governors in Texas and Arizona who have criticized the Biden administration’s response to the surge.Although cooperation between state and federal authorities on border enforcement and immigration matters is hardly new, the scale of expected involvement by U.S. states far from the southern border is widely viewed as unprecedented.In recent weeks, states including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin have announced plans to deploy National Guard troops or law enforcement personnel along the southern border.The role those units can play and the duties they perform remains to be seen and could be a point of contention. Legal experts told VOA the authority to enforce U.S. immigration law is “almost exclusive” to the federal government but is not a military matter.”Federal law is really clear that members of the military cannot engage in law enforcement activities of any kind within the United States territory,” said César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, a professor at the Mortiz College of Law at Ohio State University, in a VOA interview.Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference on details of his plan for Texas to build a border wall and provide $250 million in state funds as a “down payment.”, June 16, 2021 in Austin, Texas.FILE – Image provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows members of the New Mexico Army National Guard visiting the U.S. Border Patrol office in El Paso, Texas, April 7, 2018.
Even so, it is not unusual for the Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, July 2, 2021.Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that about 3,000 National Guard troops — all working under the command of the U.S. Northern Command and having federal status — will continue the military mission at the southern border that began in 2018 under the former Trump administration. Kirby added that the effort was separate from state-level operations.Hernández said militarizing the border has both practical and symbolic effect.”The symbolism of involving the military in any law enforcement action suggests that this is a critically important activity, one that is vital to national security,” he said, adding that it suggests existing resources are “overwhelmed” and need “reinforcements.”

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