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Border towns react to possible troop deployment

As President Trump considers deploying ...

Posted: Apr 7, 2018 2:57 PM
Updated: Apr 7, 2018 2:57 PM

As President Trump considers deploying between 2,000 and 4,000 National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border, residents and law enforcement officials in border towns say they have mixed feelings about the news.

While some welcome the support from the federal government, others feel it'd be a waste of resources.

Here's what some of them told CNN.

'It's not going to change anything'

Each night, citizen journalist Priscilla Villarreal takes to the streets of Laredo, Texas, to livestream footage of car accidents and crime scenes over Facebook for her audience.

As a woman who's familiar with her community -- and the dark underbelly that sometimes rears its head in the late hours -- she's confident sending more troops to the border is futile.

"In all honesty, I don't think sending extra security to our borders is going to solve anything," Villarreal, also known as a 'LaGordiloca,' told CNN against the backdrop of flashing police lights. She was at the scene of a car crash, and the vehicle, she said, had been carrying undocumented immigrants. It's common sight in Laredo, Villarreal said.

The President said Thursday he was considering sending the National Guard to assist in border security, a move that would be in line with actions taken by both of his predecessors.

His comments come as a caravan of migrants makes its way through central America, with some of them bound for the US border.

"We're used to all this," Villarreal said, before stressing that she's never felt unsafe in Laredo, which she called "a very safe, tight knit community."

For her part, Villarreal says she believes local law enforcement agencies and the US Border Patrol can handle whatever immigrants are crossing the border. "We have enough authority in town to cover whatever's happening in our town," she told CNN.

Trump's announcement has gotten the attention of many Laredo residents, Villarreal said. Some think an influx of troops won't bring change to the city, and believe it's a waste of federal money. But, she added, "There's a lot of Trump supporters in Laredo that disagree."

'We trust our President'

Hector Garza, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council union near Laredo, points out that the border patrol is about 2,000 agents short of its congressionally mandated minimum.

He and his union -- which represents about 18,000 agents, according to its website, and endorsed the President in the 2016 election -- will take any help it can get.

"Anything that will support border patrol agents in their operations, we welcome it from President Trump," Garza said. Garza said troops could support the agents by providing manpower and resources, particularly when it comes to surveillance operations along the border.

But as things stand right now, he said, it's impossible for border agents to continue doing their jobs effectively without the proper manpower. The money, Garza said, would be well spent.

"We are very confident that under this military deployment that Trump has talked about that it's going to be done in an efficient manner that will help our border patrol agents and the American public," he said.

The Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security have yet to answer questions about how much a military deployment would cost, but deployments by Presidents Bush and Obama combined cost more than $1.3 billion.

"It is a lawless part of the border," Garza added. "When we have 50 people getting across in one hour, undetected, and they successfully come into our country, that's a lawless border."

Sheriff says it's a waste of money

Sheriff Tom Schmerber has been sheriff of Maverick County, Texas, north of Laredo, for six years now, but spent most of his career as a border patrol agent.

Back then, he sometimes worked side by side with military personnel who were stationed on the border. But that kind of support is no longer needed, Schmerber told CNN. "Everything has changed."

Residents of his county, Schmerber said, are safe thanks to the efforts of border patrol and local law enforcement.

"I think that the border patrol are well-trained, well-equipped," he said. "I don't think we need the military here at the border."

Schmerber said he believes the money spent could be better utilized by local sheriffs' offices along the border. They're typically understaffed, and lack the necessary technology to effectively monitor border crossings.

"We need a lot of equipment," he said, pointing to cameras that could monitor the Rio Grande, or a drone that his deputies could monitor from the office, instead of roaming around. "Technology is what we need right now."

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