The deployment of 36,000 National Guard troops or state militia on the U.S.-Mexico border would stop the illegal flow of foreigners into America, says a congressional report that credits the Minuteman Project with proving that additional manpower could "dramatically reduce if not virtually eliminate" illegal immigration.
The 33-page report, written by investigators for the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, said the Minutemen — who shut down a 23-mile stretch of the Arizona border last month — served as a model for a government effort to reclaim the southern border of the United States.
"The tide of illegal crossings on the borders of the United States is beyond unsatisfactory; it is catastrophic. It does not ebb and flow — it only grows. It is rising without measure and eroding the very fiber of our safety, life and culture," the report said.
"As we wage the war on terror in foreign lands, we have all our doors and windows open at home. ... The insanity of such a policy, or silent toleration of such a policy is almost criminal in itself," it said. "The Minuteman Project demonstrated that illegal immigration on America's southern border can be dramatically reduced to manageable levels."
The report, to be released today, also said the U.S. Border Patrol failed "through no fault of its rank-and-file enforcement officers" to protect the United States from an influx of illegals.
It said the agency's uniformed leadership should be pointed in a "new direction" as it is in "total denial of the magnitude of the disaster" and — as currently organized, staffed and supported — "cannot be relied upon" to remedy the situation soon.
"The Border Patrol needs new direction from the Department of Homeland Security if it is to shake off the lethargy from years of undermanned frustration," the report said. "The patrol needs to empower its outstanding field officers to act as necessary to accomplish the patrol's mission ... to energize its leadership to think outside the box."
The report said Congress and the states could sustain the success of the Minuteman Project — whose members were lightly armed, had no arrest powers, were not paid and traveled to Arizona at their own expense — with the deployment of National Guard troops or state militia working in coordination with the Border Patrol.
The report said that sufficient reinforcements exist in current National Guard units and could be put on the border by governors and the secretary of defense within one month, if the political will exists.
As an alternative to using existing powers and forces, the report said, a $2.5 billion annual initiative coordinated through the states for the issuance of Homeland Security grants could authorize and fund state militia, or state defense forces, to assist the Border Patrol.
State militia units already exist in 22 states, including Maryland and Virginia. Militia units also are located in the border states of California, New Mexico and Texas.
The report also called on Republican Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Democratic Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Bill Richardson of New Mexico to immediately request federal funding from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the mobilization of 36,000 National Guard troops within 30 days.
"The primary impetus to stimulate the Minuteman Project is a border out of control; not for months, not for years, not just since September 11, but for many, many years," the report said. "Social and legal costs and cultural cohesion far outweigh supposed economic benefit. At a time of terror threat, the cost of irresponsibly unsecured borders can be horrific."
The report also noted that Border Patrol supervisors said the Minutemen had little or no effect on illegal immigration, attributing apparent decreases during the vigil to increased enforcement efforts by the agency, along with the increased presence of Mexican military and police south of the border.
"However, nearly every individual Border Patrol officer who spoke off-the-record in the field to the Caucus team said that illegal immigration virtually stopped in the sector patrolled by the Minutemen as a direct result of Minutemen activity and publicity," the report said.
"The individual officers were highly appreciative of the impact the Minutemen made in the area, had good working relations with the project unofficially and felt the project had made a valuable contribution to the cause of the rank-and-file officer — protecting the border against impossible logistical challenges," it said.
Despite contrary claims by the supervisors, the report said, illegal immigration dropped significantly in the areas east and west of Naco, Ariz., targeted by the Minutemen. It said the decline "put to rest the historic immigration reform myth that it is impossible to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the border with any reasonable amount of additional manpower."
"The Minuteman Project demonstrated that illegal immigration on America's southern border can be dramatically reduced to manageable levels," the report said. "What is missing is not the means to control; it is the will. With a will, there is a way."
The 71-member caucus led by Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, sent investigators to the Minuteman vigil with instructions to interview "any and all sources both on and off the record" and report their findings to Congress.
The report was written by Col. Frederick A. Peterson III, a retired U.S. Marine who serves as senior homeland defense adviser for Mr. Tancredo, and John E. Stone II, a captain in the Virginia Defense Force and deputy chief of staff for the House Education and the Workforce workforce protections subcommittee chaired by Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican.