Governor Tom Vilsack says members of the Iowa Air National Guard will help patrol the U.S./Mexican border. Vilsack says Iowa’s Army National Guard already is sending troops to California to patrol that stretch of the border.

“We now have a request from the governors of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas for additional air support,” Vilsack says. “It’s a small number of guard members who are being requested and again it’s on a volunteer basis.” Vilsack, who as governor carries the title commander in chief of the Iowa National Guard, says Iowa’s guard is helping to clamp down on illegal immigration across the country’s southern border until the federal government can hire and train more border patrol agents. “Our guard will make folks available, again on a volunteer basis, for a relatively short period of duty,” Vilsack says.

On a Guard-related matter, Vilsack’s speaking out against a bill pending in Congress that would give the president more power and authority over the guard units in each state. The governors of all 50 states and one U.S. territory have raised objections to the proposal, arguing it will make it more difficult for governors to employ the guard in police actions within their states.

“There’s a better way to do this,” Vilsack says. He and the other governors have proposed that governors remain the commanders-in-chief of their state guard units while a new “command structure” be devised. It would involve the federal military officials in decision-making about guard operations in times of crisis.

Vilsack says that would help avoid the kind of delays in mobilizing guard forces that were seen when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana. “I don’t believe that those in Congress, at the time they passed this, were fully appreciative of the reaction that governors would have to this or of the complexity of what appeared to be a relatively simple thing that we were trying to do,” Vilsack says.

The proposal is being considered by a conference committee made up of members from the U.S. House and Senate, and Vilsack says he and other governors hope that provision is removed before a final version of the bill is sent to the president.