Donald Trump is enlisting rangers from the U.S. National Park Service to help fight illegal immigration and drug trafficking at the U.S.-Mexico border, a new report reveals.
The Trump administration has been directing rangers from a series of parks to temporarily relocate to Arizona and Texas to work alongside Border Patrol agents, the USA Today reported. Some will be coming from a great distance, including rangers called into service from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The decision comes after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives refused to fund Trump’s plan to increase law enforcement presence and build new sections of wall along the border, the USA Today report noted. Trump has taken other actions to get around Congress, including declaring a state of emergency at the border in order to reallocate military funding to be used to start construction of his border wall.
As the report added, the decision to send park rangers to help has led to new criticism of the Trump administration that had already been under fire for understaffing at U.S. national parks. Raúl M. Grijalva, a Democratic Congressman from Arizona and the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, told USA Today that the decision was a “sham that diverts law enforcement resources away from already underfunded parks.” Others say that park rangers are not trained or equipped for the work at the U.S. border, which can also be considerably more dangerous than overseeing national parks.
As The Tennessean reported, the program that sends park rangers to the U.S.-Mexico border actually started as a pilot program in May 2018 and was dubbed the Department of Interior-Border Support Surge. It has expanded since then as border crossings continue to increase, and park officials said they have been told to prepare to continue sending rangers to the border through September 2020.
Trump ran in 2016 on a promise to better secure the U.S.-Mexico border and promised to build a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, but has since been criticized for failing to follow through on that promise. There had not been any new constructions on the border wall through more than two years of Trump’s presidency, and he also appeared to back off on the vow to make Mexico pay for the wall, instead pressing Democrats in Congress to authorize funding and shutting down the federal government when they refused.