National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela told lawmakers this week he was unaware of the Trump administration's plan to send a surge of park rangers to patrol the southern border for crossings by illegal immigrants, reports USA Today.
Vela made the remarks during an exchange with Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M., chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.
"How does sending NPS staff to the border, paying for them to remain there and temporarily diverting them from their role as resource protection fit in with that prioritization of the funding backlog?" Haaland asked Vela.
"Clearly the president has some very specific interests and objectives on the border that we are doing our best to satisfy current day," Vela responded without giving specifics on the border surge.
"This is a little more defined, more focused, but in my history in the NPS, this is something we have done from time to time for certain missions and certain causes."
When Haaland asked how many rangers had been deployed, Vela said he had only been on the job three months and had not "been briefed on the current call as to what is being required and requested.
"It is a briefing I will be receiving soon," he added.
"Based upon the mission, we will determine the number of assets that we will need," he said. "These deployments are short term, for a specific period of time. I think that we're learning about who we need to deploy, how long, the skill sets that are required. I hope to have answers to those questions myself in the near future based upon the mission and the purpose for the call out."
Trump in late November ordered rangers from national parks around the country to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
The effort allows Trump to direct federal resources to the border without the need for congressional approval.
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