A Fort Bliss soldiers is seen observing along the border in 2012, as part of 'Operation Nimbus II,' where active-duty soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bliss provided air and ground reconnaissance and surveillance support to the Border Patrol. (Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson/Army)
Gov. Rick Perry, center, speaks during a news conference July 21. Perry announced he is deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops over the next month to the Texas-Mexico border. (Eric Gay / AP)
The roughly 1,000 Texas Army and Air National Guard troops being dispatched to the U.S.-Mexico border will not be tasked with apprehending illegal immigrants, said the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has mobilized the National Guard in response to a flood of undocumented children fleeing to the U.S. from war-torn countries in Latin America, including El Salvador and Honduras.
The Guard’s mission, which is expected to begin within 30 days, will involve guardsmen establishing listening and observation posts along the border and using helicopters with infrared sensors to alert the Texas Department of Public Safety if they see illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S., said Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols.
“We’re going to be in observation posts, so we won’t be patrolling,” Nichols told Military Times. “If we see people cross the border then we’re going to call the DPS to go interview them.”
While the total number of guardsmen taking part in the mission has not yet been set, it is expected to be close to 1,000, Nichols said. In addition to the Army and Air National Guard, the mission may involve the Texas State Guard, a separate entity which falls under Nichols’ purview.
As with previous missions to the border, the guardsmen will be armed, Nichols said.
“They’re allowed to defend themselves,” he said. “They will be armed, but it’s for personal safety, to defend themselves. We’ve done Operation Jump Start, Operation River Watch, which were federally funded operations, where in those cases we helped U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We were armed then. The same rules applied.”
Since the guardsmen are being called up by the state, they will not fall under Posse Comitatus, which prevents federal troops from performing law enforcement functions in the U.S, Nichols said.
It is not known how long the mission to the border is expected to last, Nichols said.
“We’ve been asked to plan up to a year, so a date hasn’t been assigned as an end-date,” he said. “It’s going to be more of an effects-based end date.”