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What Will Donald Trump's Plan To Send More Troops To The Border Mean On The Ground?; U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger.
A soldier from the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard observes a section of the Rio Grande River in support of Operation Strong Safety.

President Donald Trump is now planning to send between 800 and 1,000 active-duty U.S. troops to the southern border to counter a caravan of migrants from Central America. The migrants are now making their way through Mexico. The president has called the approaching caravan a national emergency.

To get a perspective from the border, Texas Standard Host David Brown spoke with John Ferguson, the mayor of Presidio, in far west Texas, and Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council.

Ferguson says armed troops on the border were responsible for the death of a Mexican teenager in his area in 1997. Esequiel Hernández Jr. was herding goats when he fired a .22-caliber rifle, and was killed by a Marine on patrol near the border.

"Fortunately, the troops that have been stationed along the border [recently] are not armed," Ferguson says. "We do have a handful in Presidio presently."

Ferguson says troops in his area perform logistical roles, rather than performing duties that would require weapons. He says he assumes new troops in the area would perform similar duties, and would be unarmed. He says he sees the latest deployment plan as politically motivated. He says the migrants he has encountered are not threatening or dangerous.

"When these immigrants appear here in Presidio, or in the outlying areas, they'll just sit down at the roadside for the Border Patrol to come and pick them up," he says. "We here on the border do not consider it as an invasion. There's no fear in our community."

Ferguson says that if new U.S. troops in the area "blend in" to the community, he has no issue with them. "But if they come in, and we see a more aggressive role, then I'd have a real problem with that."

Cabrera, who represents Border Patrol employees, says he welcomes military personnel if they're given a free hand along the border. He says recent deployments with limited responsibilities for military members haven't been helpful.

"They're not letting them out to the field. They're not letting them force-multiply. They're keeping them in the back, so they're really not able to get out there and do what we need them to do," Cabrera says.

The migrant caravan is a problem for Cabrera.

"You're having two-, four-, five-, 10,000 folks just storming across," he says. "We did see them storm across the bridge in southern Mexico. And they're just taking what they want. And what that is is, 'Hey we want to come in, and we're coming in now, whether you like it or not.'"

Cabrera says he understands why some people on the border would be concerned about the presence of armed military forces. But he says there's little reason to worry.

"These young men and women in the service, they're highly trained, they're good folks, and I haven't seen anything to make me think that something would go awry with troops down there," Cabrera says.

He agrees with Ferguson that the border is very politicized.

"A couple months back, we had people coming down to our areas saying the processing centers were Nazi camps and child penitentiaries, and that we should be ashamed of ourselves," Cabrera says.

He says opponents of the Trump administration's detention policies didn't object to the south Texas facilities when a Democrat was in the White House.

"Nothing will ever get fixed in the immigration system as long as people keep thinking 'Democrat-Republican,'" Cabrera says.

He says not fixing immigration will lead to more children being harmed as they make their way across the border.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

Kristen Cabrera is a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where she saw snow for the first time and walked a mile through a blizzard. A native of the Rio Grande Valley, she graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American (now UTRGV) and is a former KUT News intern. She has been working as a freelance audio producer, writer and podcaster. Email her:
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