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MASTRIANO: It’s Time for PA to Send the National Guard to Texas Border

In the midst of the southern border crisis, the Pennsylvania Senate took action by passing Senate Resolution 251, calling for the Pennsylvania National Guard to be deployed to Texas to help secure the border.

One would think that securing our border and protecting Pennsylvanians from human trafficking, crime and fentanyl would be a bipartisan priority. Sadly, Gov. Josh Shapiro and Senate Democrats referred to it as “political theater and grandstanding.”

Facts are stubborn things.

According to U.S Customs and Border Protection data, more than 7 million illegal immigrants have crossed th southern border since January 2021, with the majority entering through Texas.

To put this in perspective, the total number of illegal aliens who have entered now is greater than the individual population of at least 22 states.

In the face of federal inaction, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, deploying the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety to the southern border in 2021. Operation Lone Star personnel are working around the clock to detect and repel illegal crossings, arrest human smugglers and cartel gang members and stop the flow of deadly drugs like fentanyl into our nation.

The operation has produced significant results. It led to more than 500,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions, more than 40,000 criminal arrests and the seizure of more than 468 million lethal doses of fentanyl so far.

In May 2023, Abbott sent letters to all governors in the United States requesting support for Operation Lone Star through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which enables states to help and share resources with another state in response to a disaster or emergency.

So far, 14 states – Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming – have responded to the border crisis and deployed their national guard to help secure the border as part of Operation Lone Star. An additional two states – Missouri and Louisiana – announced they will deploy troops this year as well.

Every state is now a border state and it’s clear Pennsylvania has a compelling interest to help secure the southern border of the United States.

Fentanyl trafficked through the southern border has flooded communities throughout our commonwealth. Last year, we lost more than 5,000 Pennsylvania lives to fentanyl poisonings.

An unsecure border also presents a significant cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers. According to a 2023 report from the non-partisan Federation for American Immigration Reform, at least 251,000 illegal immigrants reside in Pennsylvania with an annual burden of more than $1.6 billion on taxpayers. That equates to a burden of $318 per Pennsylvania household.

We also cannot ignore both the local and national security risks that an unsecure border brings to communities in Pennsylvania. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 15,000 illegal immigrants in the U.S. were convicted of committing at least one crime in 2023. More than 3,000 committed violent crimes and almost 300 committed sex crimes.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray testified in front of the U.S Senate Intelligence Committee on March 11 that he is “very concerned” that a human smuggling network with ties to ISIS terrorists is crossing undetected into the country at the southern border. Wray later testified that an attack on the scale of 9/11 could emanate from an illegal border crosser.

More than 276 years ago, Benjamin Franklin founded what is now our Pennsylvania National Guard to provide a common defense of Pennsylvania in times of crisis. The lawlessness on the U.S. southern border and its impacts upon the people of Pennsylvania constitutes a crisis that calls for deployment of National Guard resources.

Pennsylvania National Guard deployment to assist another state during a border crisis would certainly not be unprecedented.

The first deployment of the Pennsylvania National Guard to the southern border was in 1916 in response to cross-border raids from Pancho Villa. I`m proud to say that my great grandfather served on this campaign.

In 2007, President George W. Bush and a bipartisan group of border governors from four states launched Operation Jump Start and solicited help from all 50 states. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, put politics aside and authorized the deployment of up to 500 Pennsylvania National Guard troops to help secure the border from 2007-2008.

Securing our border does not need to be a partisan issue.

To Gov. Shapiro, I would say a mission to intercept deadly drugs and criminals before they enter Pennsylvania is not “political theater and grandstanding.” That is a direct insult to families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl poisonings and to Pennsylvania taxpayers who continue to bear the economic burden of having to support an influx of illegal immigrants.

It’s time for Shapiro to show leadership and help secure our border.

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