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President Of National Border Patrol Council Says National Guardsmen Welcome To Assist

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It appears National Guard troops will be heading to the U.S.-Mexico border to reinforce the U.S. Border Patrol. We wanted to see how this plan from President Trump is sitting with Border Patrol agents. So we have Brandon Judd on the line now from South Texas near the Mexican border. Judd is president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents thousands of U.S. border agents. He's also a 20-year veteran of the Border Patrol. Welcome to the program.

BRANDON JUDD: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

CORNISH: Is this welcome news, this additional support?

JUDD: It is. And the reason why it's welcome news is because it increases the certainty of apprehension of those that cross the border illegally. It also increases the certainty of seizure of the contraband that comes across the border. It frees up our Border Patrol agents to be on the border patrolling the border. And it puts the National Guard in the surveillance spots that we currently covers, such as in the control room, watching the cameras, monitoring the sensors in the skyboxes. It frees up our agents to actually patrol the border.

CORNISH: What reservations do you have about National Guard troops in this role especially if they're not steeped in the practices of Border Patrol?

JUDD: The only reservation that we have right now is communication. So if the National Guard is my eyes - if they're sitting in a surveillance spot, how do they communicate directly with the agent that is on the border? And that was an issue that we had under the last two iterations. But at the end, we had that worked out. And so I think that those kinks are already worked out. And I think that we'll be able to put them right into place, and we'll be able to work with them almost immediately.

CORNISH: A lot of people think that the comments you made on Fox on Sunday kicked off this whole conversation. What's your response to that?

JUDD: I don't know that I - which interview are you talking about? Are you talking about the "Fox And Friends" interview?

CORNISH: So this was - yeah, the "Fox and Friends" interview. Some of the comments you made about a concern about catch and release as a policy and about the border were echoed in a later tweet by the president. And people are saying you have his ear.

JUDD: Well, I think that there are several things that have come up - that there's trends that are going on that we've known about. And I think the more we talk about a problem, the more likelihood there is that the problem is going to be fixed.

CORNISH: I want to move on to another topic. When it comes to the wall that President Trump has talked about building - a stronger physical barrier - he's had some trouble getting money from Congress to do that. Do you want to see this wall built?

JUDD: I want to see a wall system in strategic locations. It then allows us to dictate where illegal crossings take place, which allows us to be more effective.

CORNISH: So one 30-foot-high concrete thing just kind of crawling its way around the border - not likely for you.

JUDD: Not 2,000 miles worth. But, absolutely, in certain locations I want to see a proper wall. What we have right now is not a proper wall. So the prototypes that you see out in San Diego, they're extremely good prototypes. And I do want to see those prototypes on the border - just not a 2,000-mile continuous wall but walls in strategic locations which allow us to dictate where illegal crossings take place as opposed to allowing the smugglers to dictate where illegal crossings take place.

CORNISH: One last question - we haven't heard the scope of how many National Guard may be deployed in these various states. Do you have an ideal number? What would you like to hear?

JUDD: Right now, we have what we call a projected number. It's called the table of organization within each sector along the border. We have four sectors in Texas. We've got two sectors in Arizona. What I would like to see is - I would like to see the National Guard augment that table of organization to where we're up to our full strength that will then allow them to take over all those administrative positions that we otherwise have border agents doing right now.

CORNISH: So is that 20 - 200?

JUDD: That's about 6,000.

CORNISH: So about 6,000 is the figure you'd like to see.

JUDD: Six to 7,000, yes. That would be full-staffing levels.

CORNISH: Well, Brandon Judd, thank you so much for talking with us.

JUDD: I appreciate the time. Thank you.

CORNISH: Brandon Judd is president of the National Border Patrol Council. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.