National Guard benefit at border tough to quantify

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

In 2006, President George W. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the border to bolster the efforts of the US Border Patrol. The number of illegal border crossers dropped. In 2010, President Barack Obama sent 1,200 National Guard soldiers to the border to bolster the efforts of the U.S. Border Patrol. The number of illegal border crossers dropped again.

[RELATED: Arizona officials react to planned National Guard deployment to the border]

At first glance, it may appear that the two actions are related. It may appear that sending the National Guard to the border results in fewer people attempting to cross the border. But that logic ignores what happened in the years that there were no troops posted at the border. In those years, the number of illegal border crossers also dropped.

[RELATED: Trump orders National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border]

CBS 5 Investigates reviewed 17 years worth of apprehension data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. You can look at the data for yourself here. It starts in 2000, when the US Border Patrol apprehended 1.6 million immigrants trying to get into the country illegally. It ends with 2017, when the total number of immigrants apprehended dropped to 310,531. The number had been dropping steadily, year after year.

[RELATED: Arizona governor embraces Trump plan for Guard on border]

President Donald Trump is preparing to send National Guard soldiers back to the border, as soon as possible, although the administration has offered few details about the number of troops or their mission. The previous operations cost a total of $1.3 billion, and although CBP credited the soldiers for aiding in the apprehension of thousands of undocumented immigrants and thousands of pounds of illegal drugs, the agency's own statistics show the trend continued downward with or without the aid of the soldiers.

Here are the numbers for the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector:

Year          Apprehensions

2006          392,074 (National Guard at border)

2007           378,234 (National Guard at border)

2008           317,696 (National Guard at border)

2009           241,673 (No National Guard)

2010           212,202 (National Guard at border)

2011           123,285 (National Guard at border)

2012           120,000 (No National Guard)

2014            87,915 (No National Guard)

2015            63,397 (No National Guard)

2017            38,657 (No National Guard)

The role of the National Guard at the border is limited. Soldiers are prohibited from making arrests or apprehensions, so they are relegated to a support role for the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol's own ranks have swelled since 2000, more than doubling in size. You can find the current numbers here.

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Morgan  LoewMorgan Loew is an investigative reporter at CBS 5 News. His career has taken him to every corner of the state, lots of corners in the United States, and some far-flung corners of the globe.

Click to learn more about Morgan .

Morgan Loew
CBS 5 Investigates

Morgan’s past assignments include covering the invasion of Iraq, human smuggling in Mexico, vigilantes on the border and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. His reports have appeared or been featured on CBS News, CNN, NBC News, MSNBC and NPR.

Morgan’s peers have recognized his work with 11 Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards, two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for investigative reporting, an SPJ First Amendment Award, and a commendation from the Humane Society of the United States. In October 2016, Morgan was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Silver Circle in recognition of 25 years of contribution to the television industry in Arizona.

Morgan is graduate of the University of Arizona journalism school and Concord Law School at Purdue University Global. He is the president of the Arizona First Amendment Coalition and teaches media law and TV news reporting at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

When he’s not out looking for the next big news story, Morgan enjoys hiking, camping, cheering for the Arizona Wildcats and spending time with his family at their southern Arizona ranch.

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