De­tails emerge on border-bound guards­men

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Suzanne Gam­boa

WASHINGTON — Na­tional Guard troops will head to the U.S.-Mex­ico border Aug. 1 for a year­long de­ploy­ment to keep a look­out for il­le­gal border crossers and smug­glers and help in crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, fed­eral of­fi­cials said Mon­day.

The troops will be armed but may use their weapons only to pro­tect them­selves, Gen. Craig McKin­ley, chief of the Na­tional Guard Bureau, said at a Pen­tagon news con­fer­ence. The troops will un­dergo ini­tial train­ing and be fully de­ployed along the nearly 2,000-mile south­ern border by Septem­ber.

The an­nounce­ment pro­vides de­tails on how the govern­ment will im­ple­ment Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s May de­ci­sion to bol­ster border se­cu­rity and comes as drug-re­lated vi­o­lence has es­ca­lated in Mex­ico. It also comes as the U.S. de­bate over il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion has in­ten­si­fied in an elec­tion year.

“The border is more se­cure and more re­sourced than it has ever been, but there is more to be done,” said Alan Bersin, com­mis­sioner of Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion.

The 1,200 troops will be dis­trib­uted among four border states, with Ari­zona get­ting 524, Texas 250, Cal­i­for­nia 224 and New Mex­ico 72. An­other 130 would be as­signed to a na­tional li­ai­son of­fice.

Bersin also said the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment will pro­vide six more air­craft, in­clud­ing he­li­copters, to the border. He said at least 300 Cus­toms and Border Pro­tec­tion agents and in­spec­tion of­fi­cers would be sent to the Tuc­son area, along with mo­bile sur­veil­lance vans and ad­di­tional technology.

U.S. Reps. Ann Kirk­patrick and Gabrielle Gif­fords, both Ari­zona Democrats, sep­a­rately called the an­nounced ac­tions wel­come but in­suf­fi­cient.

“This is the kind of ac­tion we want from the ad­min­is­tra­tion — not su­ing the state,” Kirk­patrick said, re­fer­ring to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s chal­lenge to the new Ari­zona im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment law.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry crit­i­cized the troops as “grossly in­suf­fi­cient” for the Texas border in a let­ter to the ad­min­is­tra­tion last week.

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush de­ployed 6,000 Na­tional Guard troops to the border in June 2006, also a midterm elec­tion year.

McKin­ley said even though the four border states are con­tribut­ing 54,000 troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they still have a siz­able num­ber avail­able for other de­ploy­ments or dis­as­ter re­sponse. More can be de­ployed at state cost if gov­er­nors wish, but the 1,200 are be­ing paid for by the fed­eral govern­ment, he said.

“Right now, I can­not see a case where we would be overex­tend­ing the Na­tional Guard for this ef­fort,” he said.

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