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McCain, Kyl call for keeping Guard on border

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Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl called on the Obama administration Tuesday to maintain a National Guard force on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Administration officials, speaking prior to President Barack Obama's May 10 speech on immigration in El Paso, said that Guard troops would remain on the border past the June date when funding for the support mission is to run out.

The 1200 Guardsmen were deployed last fall to support Border Patrol operations, mainly by surveilling border areas. Training began in August, while full-scale operations started Oct. 1.

560 troops, who under federal law are not authorized to make arrests, have been working in Arizona.

The mission, known as Operation Phalanx, was to end in the second week of June. Funding for the program, $110 million overall and an estimated $34 million in Arizona, has been paid by the Defense Department.

McCain and Kyl's statement, as released by McCain's office:

The Administration and Congress have failed to provide adequate resources to maintain the deployment of the National Guard along the Southwest border. Unless action is taken now, the deployment will end in June.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard is, 'helping to significantly drive down illicit flows of people, drugs, guns and money across our Southwest border' and 'has contributed to a significant decrease in border-wide apprehensions, meaning far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.' Removing the National Guard from the border at this time would be a failure of leadership in our efforts to secure the border.

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The number of National Guard, Border Patrol Agents, and Customs Officers should be dramatically increased as reflected in our legislation, S.803, the Border Security Enforcement Act of 2011. However, maintaining the limited National Guard presence currently on the ground is the least the Administration can do to protect citizens living in the Southwest border region. Extending the National Guard is the right thing to do for Arizona and the country.

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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Sens. McCain and Kyl (center and right) hold a February press conference on Iran with Sens. Lieberman and Bayh.

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