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Nat'l Guard border deployments begin Aug. 1

 1200 National Guard troops will deploy to assist law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexican border beginning Aug. 1, the federal government announced Monday.

The guardsmen will provide support for surveillance and reconnaissance and counternarcotics enforcement for up to one year, said the Department of Homeland Security.

"These troops will provide direct support to federal law enforcement officers and agents working in high-risk areas to disrupt criminal organizations seeking to move people and goods illegally across the Southwest border," said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a news release.

The troops will assist existing Border Patrol and immigration officers. The breakdown of National Guard to be deployed includes:

  • 524 in Arizona
  • 250 in Texas
  • 224 in California
  • 72 in New Mexico
  • 130 serving as command and control and other support

The guardsmen "will serve in law enforcement support roles consistent with the Administration's view that border security is a law enforcement challenge," said Gen. Craig McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Napolitano also announced a further expansion of federal border enforcement efforts in Arizona. 

Hundreds of additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents and other personnel will be deployed in the state, she wrote in an opinion piece in the Arizona Republic.

ICE will open a new office in Ajo, and a Border Enforcement Security Task Force Jump Team will be deployed in Douglas, Napolitano said.

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300 Customs and Border Protection agents will be sent to the Tucson Sector, and six additional aircraft, including helicopters, will be deployed on the border in Arizona.

More than 100 additional Immigrations and Customs Enforcement personnel will be sent to Arizona, including investigations agents, intelligence analysts and enforcement and removal officers.

Six mobile surveillance systems, 36 thermal imaging binocular units and three trucks with detection scopes are included in the new resources for the Tucson Sector announced by DHS.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said the deployment of troops took far too long and that more are needed.

"This is an important step in securing our border. However, it has been more than four long months since Rob Krentz was murdered on his ranch near the border," she said in a release Monday. "It should not have taken this long to have the troops dispatched to the border area. And while I am pleased to see troops soon will be arriving, it is not enough to secure Arizona's 370-mile border with Mexico."

Arizona's GOP Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl have criticized the administration's efforts, saying that 1,200 troops are not enough to secure the border.

"If the president had visited the Arizona-Mexico border, he would know that at least 6,000 National Guard troops are necessary to assist in securing the entire Southwest border," McCain said last month.

Gov. Jan Brewer also gave the announcement a lukewarm welcome.

"Despite the mantra by the Obama administration that the border is "as secure as ever," in Arizona both Republicans and Democrats recognize they have failed. Their failure to date is borne out by today's announcement of more federal resources. While the announcement of more resources is welcomed, it does not appear to be enough, or tied to a strategy to comprehensively defeat the increasingly violent drug and alien smuggling cartels that operate in Arizona," she said in a news release.

Brewer announced $10 million in grants for local law enforcement to support border security work Monday. The funds come from federal stimulus money given to the state for discretionary spending.

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The Texas Tribune reported on reaction in that state:

The move will likely be met with criticism on two fronts: from officials who see the amount deployed as insufficient to the task, and from communities who fear the effects that militarization will have on local economies. Speaking with reporters following a press event today, Gov. Rick Perry said that at least 3,000 troops to Texas alone would be a better response. This comes after last month’s rally in El Paso at which advocacy groups, including El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, Harlingen-based Casa de Proyecto Libertad, Austin-based Freedom Ambassadors and the U.S–Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force, decried the deployment and cited statistics purporting to show that Texas’ border cities are some of the safest in the country.

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jim.greenhill/Flickr

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