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U.S. House Again Votes to Put 10,000 Anti-Drug Troops on U.S.-Mexico Border


September-October 1997

On September 5, the House voted 261-150 to instruct its conferees to insist on Rep. Jim Traficant's (D-OH) amendment that would deploy up to 10,000 troops on the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out drugs and illegal aliens as part of the FY 1998 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1119). H.R. 1119 is currently in conference. The Senate-passed version of the bill does not have such an amendment. Conference between the House and Senate is continuing. House approval of the measure followed the recent withdrawal of anti-drug troops from the border due to the killing of a U.S. citizen, Esequiel Hernandez (See "18-Year-Old Texan, Herding Goats, Killed by U.S. Marine Corps Anti-Drug Patrol ...," NewsBriefs, July 1997; "Neighbors of Texan Killed by Military Anti-Drug Patrol Petition for Demilitarization of Border ...," NewsBriefs, August 1997) (Associated Press, "House: Put Troops at U.S. Border," September 5, 1997; "House Votes for Troops on Border," Dallas Morning News, September 6, 1997, p. 30A; Editorial, "Border troops fixation, Ominous approach would misapply military dollars," Waco Tribune-Herald, September 10, 1997).

Rep. Traficant's chief of staff, Paul Marcone, said "It's unfortunate that the military backed off after the Esequiel Hernandez shooting. They should have said, `This was an isolated incident. Let's learn from it.'" Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) argues that "The Clinton administration has dragged its feet on adding enough Border Patrol agents to confront this problem, and now they're depriving understaffed border agents of their eyes and ears," referring to the loss of troops on the border. Smith chairs the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims with jurisdiction over the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Ruth Larson, "Military ponders its role in securing U.S.-Mexico line," Washington Times, September 1, 1997, p. A3).

The Traficant Amendment was earlier introduced as a bill (H.R. 805). It is opposed by the U.S. Defense Department, the U.S. Justice Department and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). ONDCP Director Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, said, "The answer is not 10,000 military personnel where you take New Jersey National Guard tank battalions and ... put them on the frontier" (Philip True, "Not all agree on use of troops," San Antonio Express-News, August 31, 1997, p. 13A).

Marine Lt. Gen. Carlton Fulford, commander at Camp Pendleton, California, where the Marines who killed Hernandez were stationed, said he would "prefer to see these missions handled by law enforcement agencies. That's their focus, that's what they're trained for." Opponents say incidents, such as the Hernandez shooting, are caused by military troops engaging in civilian law enforcement without proper training. "The only rational, reasonable way that we are going to combat illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and all of the associated concerns that we have about our international borders is to hire additional professional bilingual agents," according to U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), a former Border Patrol sector chief.

U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant - 2446 RHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-5261, Fax: (202) 225-3719, E-mail:

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith - 2231 RHOB, Washington, DC 20515, Tel: (202) 225-4236, Fax: (202) 225-8628, E-mail: