Obama Sending 1,200 Troops to the Border: Just a Band-Aid to the Illegal Immigration Problem?

Published May 26, 2010

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: President Obama orders troops to our border with Mexico, 1,200 National Guard. Now, is that enough? Arizona Governor Brewer fired off a statement reading, in part, "Today's media report represents a very significant and important shift in the president's immigration and border security policy. My signing of senate bill 1070 has clearly ignited the talk of action in Washington for the people of Arizona and other border states." Arizona governor Brewer goes on to say, "I am anxious to hear the details that have not been disclosed of where, how and for how long additional forces will be deployed. With the accountability of this election year, I am pleased and grateful at long last, there's been a partial response from the Obama administration to my demands that Washington do its job." Now, that was Arizona Governor Brewer!

So what about Arizona's U.S. senator, John McCain? Senator McCain and Senator Kyl have demanded 6,000 troops. That's 4,800 less (SIC) than what the president is now sending.

Senator McCain joins us by phone. Good evening, Senator. And 1,200 troops -- is that enough for you, sir?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ. (Via Telephone): Of course not. And no one (INAUDIBLE) believes that's enough, but that's a good first step. And hopefully, now that the president understands the importance of this issue, we will also get UAVs and we will get border -- more border positions built so that we can -- and give hardship pay to the border patrol that we have, and the rest of the 10-point plan that Jon Kyl and I have. But certainly, it's not nearly enough. But I've got to say it's a good first step.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, you say it's a good first step. You and Senator Kyl have been writing the president on multiple occasions and for quite some time. Did the president actually respond to you and say, Senator McCain, I can't give you 6,000, but I can give you 1,200, or did you just learn about this in the press?

MCCAIN: We learned about it in the press. And the interesting thing was that at the luncheon that the president came to with Republican senators, the issue came up and I discussed it with the president, including the fact that we had to secure the borders first, otherwise, we would be faced with a continuous problem of illegal immigrants. And Jon Kyl mentioned the supplemental and that we needed additional troops, and the president didn't say anything then. And a half hour afterwards, there was a statement or a press release from the administration saying they had 1,200 -- they were sending 1,200 additional. So -- and at the same time, I had an amendment on the floor, which we'll be voting on tomorrow, to fund 6,000 additional troops. Interesting -- all these are interesting coincidences.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you call them "interesting." I call them -- to me, on the outside, it looks like it's playing around, you know, not (INAUDIBLE) Why didn't he tell you ahead of time before at the luncheon? Why didn't he mention it at the luncheon? Why isn't this sort of give-and- take -- why didn't he say to you at the luncheon, Senator McCain, I'm going to be sending 1,200, not 6,000? Why are you hearing about it from the press? This is a very -- I mean, why this way? This doesn't seem like the most overt, best way to hit head on a problem that's confronting this nation.

MCCAIN: I don't know, Greta, but I know that this is the most partisan administration that I've ever dealt with. And the fact is that they have not kept us informed on a lot of things. I'm the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. They don't inform us -- inform me on a number of issues. But it is what it is. And the fact is that Americans have finally got the message through that we need to secure our border and we need to secure our border first.

VAN SUSTEREN: There is also -- the president says he's going to ask for $500 million. What does it mean to ask for $500 million? Is he going to get the $500 million? And what's he asking to do with it?

MCCAIN: Well, he did not specify the details of that, but hopefully, it will be to complete the fence, which is not completed, as you know. It will be to purchase more UAVs so that we can better surveil the border and a lot of the beefing up of the capabilities of the border patrol that is very necessary.

VAN SUSTEREN: The 1,200 National Guard troops that are going to the border -- how is that going to be divvied up? Who gets the 1,200? How much does Arizona get? How long are they going to stay there? I mean, is -- how -- what about those important questions? Who -- and who decides that?

MCCAIN: We don't know. We haven't had the details on their proposal. It was simply -- as you reported, we were not given the details of it. But we're going to continue. We have amendments on the floor on this bill that's on the floor. I will have amendments on the defense authorization bill. And we will get the 10-point plan that Jon Kyl and I have, and then we can truly secure the border. But honestly, Greta, all I know is what you know, which was in their press release.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know about you, Senator, but this is such an important issue to the people of Arizona -- I've been down there I've talked to -- I've been to Mexico. We've taken our show to Mexico. We know how important it is to people and to the entire nation because it affects every country, and this sort of this whole idea of releasing it in a press release, not talking to the senators in the state who represent that state, or to the governor or making any sort of arrangement, just issuing it in a press release certainly, you know, it makes me less confident that this is truly an effort to solve a problem, rather than to do something else. I don't know.

MCCAIN: Well, we're going to have to find out. And the fact is, they didn't tell our governor nor Senator Kyl or me. But again -- and I don't mean this in any angry way. It's just it is what it is. This administration is the most partisan that I have encountered. I had an exchange with the president today about the mischaracterization by his administration of the Arizona law. And he still maintains that it could have the, quote, "potential" for abuse. And so it means to me he still hasn't been briefed or read the bill that was passed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Or -- well, he knows that every single statute in our U.S. code has the potential for abuse, has the potential...

MCCAIN: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... for racial profiling. And -- and -- I mean, that - - that -- I mean, that is sad -- sadly but true, but that doesn't invalidate a particular statute, when people misuse it, which is something very different. Anyway...

MCCAIN: Any (INAUDIBLE) obviously...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... Senator, thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Go ahead. Thank you, Senator.

Well, will 1,200 National Guard troops make a difference, or is this simply a Band-Aid? Joining us live is Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu. Sheriff, 1,200 -- that seems like it's better than nothing. What about 1,300? What does that mean to you, sir?

PAUL BABEU, SHERIFF OF PINAL COUNTY, ARIZ.: It's not enough. Senator McCain and Kyl's plan is actually perfect, that actually, immediately deploy 3,000 soldiers and airmen to the Arizona/Mexico border -- that's just part of the plan. And to do a half-hearted effort of 1,200, we're setting this up for failure.

I appreciate and respect that the president -- the fact that he's finally acknowledging the problem on our border because it's not just an Arizona problem -- this is a national security problem. And in my county, we have 2,600 to 3,000 illegals and smugglers a day that come through Pinal County. And this is the border patrol estimate. So you can see things are out of control.

And then this debate of senate bill 1070 -- you get a lot of people on both sides -- having cops in the interior trying to enforce law. But this is never going to end until we actually stop the endless flow of illegals. And you do that at the border with armed soldiers.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you are not in Arizona, I don't think, going to get all 1,200. I don't think so. I mean, I think you're going to have to split them up with some other states. If you got all 1,200, is that still not enough for you?

BABEU: It's not enough. And I can tell you, the model of success is the Yuma sector. What happened there is in 2006, there were 140,000 approximate illegal crossings that we knew of. This year, it's 7,400. Why is that, 95 percent reduction in illegal entries into the Yuma sector. It's because we deployed 700-plus armed soldiers immediately to the border, that the fence, the double barrier fence, was built during that time, that two-year deployment those soldiers were there. And then they implemented Operation Streamline, which ends the catch-and-release, 24 hours you're in America, we give you a shower, give you a meal and then bring you south of the border so you can try the next day. That's got to stop. And they did that in Yuma.

That's why there's no soldiers down there, yet the border is secure. That's what we need to replicate, those successes. And that's where Senator McCain and Senator Kyl are right. They're the only ones out there with this full, detailed plan of additional soldiers, actual implement Streamline, build the dang fence that President Obama suspended, and all those other measures that people can look at on line.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think you're only getting 1,200, or the border states are? Is it because that's all we have to spare, we don't have any extras because of being very practical, or is it because someone in Washington -- maybe the president doesn't understand the problem or hasn't gone down there? Why only 1,200? What's your theory?

BABEU: Well, all week, all month, we've been having mudpies and catapults (ph) of all kinds of other weapons thrown at us in Arizona from Washington and outside, people who really haven't had an understanding, wouldn't even think of reading the law before they would criticize us and undermine law enforcement. And now you can't continue to criticize us and not do anything.

So this is a half-hearted measure. I credit the president for acknowledging the crisis and coming this far. But truly, to address this problem, he needs to deploy 3,000 soldiers just in Arizona. And then Senator McCain's plan is 3,000 additional soldiers for the three other border states. And the reason why we get 3,000 is because more than half of all the illegal entries into America come through our state of Arizona.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sheriff, thank you. And of course, we're going to continue to follow this. But thank you, sir.

BABEU: Thank you, Greta.

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