Troops de­ploy:

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Rafael Car­ranza

Ari­zona guards­men of­fi­cially join bor­der­polic­ing op­er­a­tions.

NO­GALES — Ari­zona Gov. Doug Ducey on Fri­day jus­ti­fied the de­ploy­ment of Na­tional Guard troops to help tackle a “re­cent surge” in the num­ber of mi­grant ap­pre­hen­sions along the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der.

But, he was un­able to an­swer how that surge has played out at the Ari­zona bor­der, even as he wel­comed the first wave of troops to the area.

“These are na­tional news re­ports,” he said, cit­ing sta­tis­tics from the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity. “It’s a 200 per­cent surge year over year, March 2017 to 2018. And a 37 per­cent in­crease from Fe­bru­ary to March.”

But when pressed about ap­pre­hen­sion num­bers spe­cific to the Ari­zona bor­der, the gov­er­nor punted the ques­tion to Rodolfo Karisch, the chief agent for the Bor­der Pa­trol’s Tuc­son Sec­tor.

“We have seen spikes through­out the South­west bor­der. I think March was one of the in­creases; we saw a tremen­dous num­ber of ap­pre­hen­sions go up, here and in other places,” Karisch said. “The Rio Grande Val­ley down in South Texas is prob­a­bly the high­est, but Tuc­son sec­tor is a close sec­ond in the ap­pre­hen­sions.”

In Ari­zona, the num­ber of mi­grant ap­pre­hen­sions has been on the rise after bot­tom­ing out last April fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion. How­ever, those num­bers are still be­low 2016 lev­els in the Tuc­son sec­tor, which cov­ers Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise coun­ties.

But whether or not the spe­cific sit­u­a­tion on the Ari­zona bor­der con­sti­tutes a crisis, Karisch said the Bor­der Pa­trol would take any ad­di­tional sup­port from the Na­tional Guard to help the agents carry out their work.

Trump called for the de­ploy­ment of troops to the bor­der in re­sponse to the in­crease in Bor­der Pa­trol ap­pre­hen­sions, one of the most re­li­able mea­sures in mi­gra­tion pat­terns. But the year-to-year com­par­i­son doesn’t re­flect that ap­pre­hen­sions in 2017 dropped sig­nif­i­cantly, to his­toric lows. Since then, the num­ber of mi­grant ap­pre­hen­sions have largely re­turned to pre-Trump lev­els.

Still, Ducey mo­bi­lized 338 Na­tional Guard mem­bers this week as part of Op­er­a­tion Guardian Sup­port. But it took sev­eral days to be­gin de­ploy­ing them to the bor­der, amid ad­min­is­tra­tive hur­dles and train­ing.

Be­fore his ar­rival in No­gales, Ducey met with Na­tional Guard troops at one of their fa­cil­i­ties in Marana, just north of Tuc­son. The base is used as a for­ward de­ploy­ment base for the 338 ser­vices mem­bers mo­bi­lized this week.

The first group of about 60 Guard mem­bers ar­rived to No­gales on Fri­day. But it re­mained un­clear how long it would take for the re­main­ing troops to de­ploy to their as­sign­ments along other parts of the Ari­zona bor­der­lands.

Ser­vice mem­bers will be placed in sup­port­ive roles, some­times as far north as Tuc­son, to help free up Bor­der Pa­trol agents to spend more time in the field. Some of those roles in­clude road and fleet main­te­nance, op­er­at­ing video sur­veil­lance sys­tems, and air pa­trols.

But even as de­tails emerged about their as­sign­ments, lo­cal lead­ers in bor­der com­mu­ni­ties ques­tioned why Guard mem­bers weren’t be­ing used to staff the ports of en­try. Ari­zona faces a se­vere short­age of cus­toms of­fi­cers, strain­ing cur­rent em­ploy­ees and re­sult­ing in longer wait times to cross the bor­der. The prob­lem has be­come so great that CBP of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton have made hir­ing for Ari­zona’s ports a pri­or­ity this year.

Karisch said he rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of law­ful trade and travel through the bor­der, and that Ari­zona CBP of­fi­cials were work­ing on a plan to have Guard mem­bers also help out at the ports of en­try later on.

“They are go­ing there, I as­sure you that,” he said. “We are work­ing into a phased ap­proach on this. We’re look­ing ini­tially at some re­sources between the ports of en­try, but we are also go­ing to bring some of those re­sources ... to sup­port the ports of en­try as well.”

Ducey also said Fri­day that he didn’t feel the de­ploy­ment of the Na­tional Guard would af­fect Ari­zona’s re­la­tion­ship with Mex­ico, and in par­tic­u­lar Sonora.

Ducey chal­lenged crit­i­cisms the de­ploy­ment of Guard troops would re­sult in fur­ther mil­i­ta­riz­ing the bor­der.

“There is no mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the bor­der,” he said. “The Na­tional Guard is here in sup­port of the Bor­der Pa­trol, and it is the Bor­der Pa­trol who is in the law en­force­ment po­si­tion.”

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