National Guard stands watch over border while federal gov. stands by idly

Antonio Olivo --- The Washington Post 

RIO GRANDE CITY, Tex. — The National Guard troops arrived here last week, outfitted in body armor and carrying pistols to help bring more security to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Yet they saw little activity after taking their positions in portable towers and Border Patrol vehicles along the dirt roads and levees that overlooked the dense brush near the Rio Grande.

Some found themselves fighting boredom, chatting with each other about their lives back home — where their jobs were altogether different than looking out for armed traffickers — and wondering how much longer they would be posted in the unforgiving desert heat. Others killed time any way they could during taxing 12-hour shifts watching the silent riverbank.

“The music keeps me up,” said one soldier listening to old-school R&B tunes who requested anonymity because, as several guardsmen explained, the soldiers were not permitted to speak to the media. “We’re keeping our eyes on the brush.”

The National Guard was dispatched to the border with great fanfare byTexas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who declared in July that he was forced to act because of a string of failures by the federal government in addressing drug smugglers and an influx of unaccompanied Central American minors who had flooded across the border in recent months.

As of last week, 400 guardsmen had arrived. A total of 1,000 are expected to gather in the coming weeks, concentrated in this stretch of border on Texas’s southernmost tip, running through the Rio Grande Valley from Brownsville to McAllen. This region has been seen as especially vulnerable to illegal crossings.

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