THE BLOG

Why Are Republicans Trying to Suppress My Fight Against Militarizing the Border?

02/04/2015 04:29 pm ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015

Republicans are interested in expanding the Defense Department's 1033 program not because local officers actually need MRAPs and assault weapons to conduct "border security activities" but out of a purely ideological desire to expand police militarization.

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That's the impression I got yesterday when I participated in a Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration. Right now, the House GOP are pushing a Homeland Security bill that would grant local officers whose duties include "border security activities" priority access to the DOD's free transfer program. This hearing provided supporters an opportunity to demonstrate an actual need for this expansion. Instead, the GOP demonstrated no actual need, and they tried to censor me when I pointed this out.

Watch the video of the hearing here.

What exactly are "border security activities"? The term is not well defined in the legislation. And do officers whose jurisdictions fall close to the border actually need military-grade weapons to carry out these activities (whatever they are)? Apparently not, according to Paul Babeu, who is the sheriff of Pinal County in Arizona.

Sheriff Babeu was called in front of the Judiciary Committee to testify on the merits of our current immigration policies. When I asked him if his department actually needed automatic weapons and MRAPs to patrol the border effectively, Sheriff Babeu answered -- multiple times -- that his department did not need such weapons for border security.

I was eager to probe the issue further. If a sheriff whose jurisdiction is so close to our southern border says his department doesn't need military weapons to carry out its "border security activities," the House GOP's arguments for expanding the 1033 program lose all credibility. The American public would be left to conclude that the GOP is pursuing increased militarization for its own sake, and not because of any actual benefit to public safety.

Before I could continue my line of questioning, however, I was interrupted by Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy. He proceeded to take over the rest of my question period, leaving me no time to ask Sheriff Babeu what I most needed his testimony on: Should the border be militarized under the Pentagon's 1033 Program?