The Trump administration announced last month that it will send a wave of park rangers to the U.S.-Mexico border to help the Border Patrol stop undocumented immigrants and drug trafficking.
The measure, taken by White House, is meant to mitigate the increase of arrivals of immigrants from the south, a situation which it considers to be an emergency. The decision was a way around the multiple failed attempts to get Congress to allocate funds to finance Trump’s border security plan, which includes expanding the wall and increasing Border Patrol agents. Park rangers are federal resources that can be directed to the border without congressional approval.
Rangers will be transferred to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the border between Arizona and Mexico, as well as the Big Bend National Park on the border in southwest Texas. Park rangers who will move to Arizona and Texas come from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, Elias National Park in Alaska, the National Mall in Washington, DC, and Zion National Park in Utah, among others.
According to a USA Today report, two operations have already been launched in which rangers and other officials have been employed with tasks to patrol the border and that similar actions are to be taken at least until September 2020.
According to USA Today, the president and his team argue that park rangers and other types of officials have provided valuable assistance to the Border Patrol in the face of the constant flow of migrants trying to reach the US. On the other hand, critics argue that the measure removes valuable resources from national parks and that civil servants of this type are not trained for activities such as catching migrants or drug traffickers.
The Sierra Club states, “This unprecedented move is harming our most treasured spaces and wildlife, and putting the safety of park visitors at risk. Parks across the nation need more funding and staffing. There is absolutely no good reason to relocate staff from their homes and inappropriately order them to work outside of their job description as unofficial border security.”
Since fiscal 2011, the NPS has seen an 11% reduction in staff while experiencing a 19% increase in tourist visits. Trump’s proposed budget for 2020, which includes significant increases in border security spending, reduces the NPS budget cut by $ 481 million.
At least five national parks confirmed that they will send some members of their staff to the southern border. Among them is the Great Smoky Mountains, located on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.
Trump’s presidential administration is not the first to deploy park rangers at the border. During the decades in which the government campaign ‘War on Drugs’ was carried out, the rangers were sent to the border.