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Napier: Arizona deploying 330 guardsmen to border

The Arizona National Guard will send more than double the number of guardsmen to assist with border enforcement than Gov. Doug Ducey announced last week, Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said Monday.

While Ducey said Friday that about 150 National Guard members would be send to the U.S.-Mexico border following President Donald Trump's call for a deployment, Napier said Monday morning that a total of 338 would be initially deployed.

"Currently, 225 Arizona National Guard personnel are being deployed to assist federal law enforcement. An additional 113 will then follow, for a total initial deployment of 338," Napier said in a news release following a conference call between Ducey and sheriffs of border counties.

Monday morning, Ducey was scheduled to take part in a deployment ceremony in Phoenix for the first 225 guardsmen. Ducey's office has not mentioned the additional 113 personnel in any releases sent to the press.

Napier, like Ducey a Republican, sounded a skeptical note last week, saying that while Pima County faces legitimate safety concerns due to lack of border security, "deployment of the military in large scale to the border presents some issues with respect to the nature of its mission and logistical coordination with local law enforcement."

The sheriff's initial reactions was that the nation’s military is already “spread very thin” and the “significant associated costs” with a deployment to the border are two reasons the plan may not be realistic right now.

Monday, he said, "I share the concern some may have regarding the appearance of the militarization of the border. However, the current deployment of AZNG personnel to provide support at the border has been done under prior presidents, both Republican and Democrat(ic). We have been assured, as was the case under prior deployments, personnel will be used in a support role."

Arizona's National Guard will be tasked with "air support, reconnaissance support, operational support, construction of border infrastructure and logistical support," Ducey's office said.

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Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, troops under federal authority are not permitted to carry out direct law enforcement functions inside the United States.

The federal government has said it will reimburse the states for the costs of this deployment, but, as with Operation Jump Start under President George W. Bush and Operations Phalanx and Copper Cactus under President Barack Obama, the guard is not being federalized. Rather than operating under the direct control of the Pentagon and president, the governors of each state will remain in command of the units at the border.

Napier said that Ducey told the sheriffs that he will seek further funding from the federal government, under Operation Stonegarden, to provide more assistance to local law enforcement along the border.

Trump said last week the military is needed on the border because “the security of the United States is imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border.” On Thursday, Trump said he wanted 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard members deployed along nearly 2,000-mile border from Texas to California. “We’ll probably keep them or a large portion of them” stationed along the border until a border wall is constructed, he said.

In February 2017, the White House denied reports of a plan to use National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants:

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters he couldn't categorically say the move had never been discussed anywhere in the administration. The Associated Press reported the proposal to mobilize up to 100,000 National Guard troops was part of a draft memo being circulated at the Department of Homeland Security.

The AP said the draft memo, dated Jan. 25, had been circulating among DHS staff for about two weeks and was addressed to the then-acting heads of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

It reported the 11-page document called for an unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement on the states bordering Mexico - California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - and also encompassed seven states contiguous to those four -- Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, a Democrat, said he is concerned Trump’s move would be seen as an “act of war,” and that those resources would be better spent hiring more Border Patrol officers.

Trump's announcement last week was decried by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, who said it was a "draconian" policy.

“Trump’s recent calls to send U.S. military troops to occupy the southern border is the latest chapter in his reign of terror meant to wreak havoc on immigrants and residents of border communities,” he said. “This is nothing new for a president whose abysmal job performance has forced him to seek solace in the rabid anti-immigrant sentiments of his disconnected political base.”

In a letter to Ducey, the Tucson Democrat said that "A grandiose deployment of the National Guard to the border area gives a misleading perception of our community and risks vital cooperation from Mexico on immigration and security issues. ... (D)eploying the National Guard to the southern border is not unprecedented, these deployments were wasteful and ineffective to an area where the U.S. already spends billions of dollars every year on security."

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Tucson, issued a brief statement about the policy on social media: "Deploying the National Guard to our southern border will help keep Arizona safe. Securing our southern border has always been about protecting this country and its citizens from harm."

When Obama pushed for a deployment in 2010, some Democrats supported the move. One of McSally's predecessors in representing Southeastern Arizona in Congress, Gabrielle Giffords, said, "Each of these service members decided on their own to come to one of our nation’s harshest deserts at one of the hottest times of the year to answer our nation’s call. For that they deserve our sincere gratitude."

"I remain deeply concerned about the length of time it took for them to get here. It should not have taken this long to get National Guard boots on the border in Arizona," Giffords said then. "Like many of my constituents, my reaction can be summed up in three words: 'It’s about time.'"

Cronkite News reporters Phillip Athey, Chris McCrory and Lerman Montoya contributed background to this story.


TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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U.S. Army photo

Army National Guard soldiers, members of an entry identification team, watch the U.S.-Mexico border near Nogales, January 2007.