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National Guard begin border deployment
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National Guard begin border deployment

  • Border Patrol agents observe Arizona National Guard Soldiers training for Operation Copper Cactus.
    U.S. Army photoBorder Patrol agents observe Arizona National Guard Soldiers training for Operation Copper Cactus.
  • Border Patrol agents observe Arizona National Guard Soldiers training for Operation Copper Cactus.
    U.S. Army photoBorder Patrol agents observe Arizona National Guard Soldiers training for Operation Copper Cactus.

The first of 532 National Guard troops are set to deploy to the Arizona-Mexico border Monday.

About 30 Guardsmen are expected to deploy Monday, with the full contingent in place by the end of September, said Lt. Valentine Castillo, a National Guard spokesman.

The troops will support the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as part of Operation Copper Cactus. Serving as "eyes and ears," they will conduct surveillance on and near the border and provide intelligence to federal authorities.

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.

"These soldiers will work with the Border Patrol and will be put to good use," Attorney General Terry Goddard — the Democratic candidate for governor — said in a release. "But the federal government needs to do more to take the fight to the organized criminals who bring most of the drugs and illegal immigrants across our border. We need to hit the cartels in Mexico with decisive, overwhelming and binational force. Defensive steps alone will not stop these deeply entrenched, heavily armed and well-funded organizations.

"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," Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said in a release. "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. "Like many of my constituents, my reaction can be summed up in three words: 'It’s about time.'"

In May, President Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to assist in border enforcement.

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