PolitiFact Texas: U.S. Alone in Not Using the Military to Secure Borders?

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Andy UhlerJune 17, 2015 8:28 am

A Texas sheriff said the U.S. is alone in not using the military to secure its borders. Is he right about that? Gardner Selby of the Austin American Statesman’s fact checking project, PolitiFact Texas, joins the Texas Standard to talk about that claim.

Who said this thing about the US being alone in not using the military to secure its borders? And what did he say about the border?

We came across a newspaper story – Gary Painter, the Midland County sheriff, was quoted in the Midland Reporter-Telegram after the Islamic State group claimed credit for the failed attack in Garland that drew national attention. Painter said he had no doubt ISIS has “contacts in Mexico supporting them. They’re a huge threat,” he said, “because it is an avenue of approach to get into the U.S.” Painter also said, “We’re the only nation in the world that does not use the military to secure our border.”

How did he know that?

We wondered so we reached him by phone. Painter told us he based this conclusion on TV news reports showing military forces on the borders of other countries. When we called, several days later he did not recall the countries he saw in those accounts.

So, how did you drill down on this?

We looked into how the U.S. oversees its borders and on how other countries do so. The U.S. is among numerous nations that do not rely on the military to handle border security and day-to-day crossings and commerce. Now, there are a very few places, such as the tense zone between North and South Korea, clearly under military control.

How about our border with Mexico—or Canada?

We looked into that, too. In Mexico, the government relies on the Army and Navy and federal police to back up typical border and customs agencies. Canada has something called the Border Services Agency and that is supported by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in concert with the U.S. Coast Guard. There is some kind of international agreement there, but other military do not participate.

And what was the international upshot as far as how borders are secured?

We learned other countries that don’t lean on the military to secure borders; they include Germany and other states in the European Union. Also, anyone crossing into the United Kingdom does face border checks, which are handled by Her Majesty’s Border Force, not the military. All this said many countries have border-area checkpoints run by officers with weapons. One expert emailed us to say the “only countries that rely on their military to police/defend their borders are nations facing severe instability and/or open warfare.”

So in the end, how did this claim fare on the Texas Truth-O-Meter?

Contrary to what the sheriff said, it’s rare for countries to control borders with the military. Our editors reached our most severe rating on this one: Pants on Fire!