Iowa Senator Tom Harkin disagrees with President Obama’s plan to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico. Harkin, a Democrat, says he understands the concerns about immigration and border security and he’s supported previous efforts, but says he doesn’t see how the latest gesture will be of any help.

“The National Guard’s already stretched out,” Harkin says. “We already have 3,200 Iowa Guard troops being deployed to Afghanistan and quite frankly, 1,200 National Guard troops along the border with Mexico at a cost of a half-billion dollars, I just don’t think that’s going to be effective.” While the Guard troops will be tasked with helping to battle illegal immigration and drug smuggling, Harkin says the situation demands much more attention.

“We’ve gotta’ do two things,” Harkin says. “We’ve gotta’ do more security along the border but we also have to get immigration reform passed. I keep saying, we passed immigration reform in 2005 in the Senate, with Republican and Democratic support and the support of President Bush. I don’t know why we can’t get that job done again now.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. House could vote as soon as today (Wednesday) on legislation that would repeal what’s known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Repealing the 1993 law would allow gays to openly serve in the military. Harkin says a similar measure is before a Senate committee and he’s encouraged.

“I co-sponsored Senator Lieberman’s bill to overturn this,” Harkin says. “I think it’s discriminatory. Gay and lesbian individuals deserve the same employment rights as everyone else, including the right to be open about their lives while serving their country. I’m hopeful we can get this done this year.”

Harkin says the policy has resulted in thousands of men and women being kicked out of the service “when we need their skills and productivity.”