Guard troops heading to Mexican border

July 19, 2010 at 3:16 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday more than 500 National Guard troops will be deployed to Arizona's Mexican border by Aug. 1.

"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," Napolitano said in a statement.

In addition, the secretary wrote in a guest column Monday in The Arizona Republic that hundreds of additional Border Patrol and Customs agents will be sent to the state's border area and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will open a new office in Ajo, Ariz., about 40 miles from the Mexican border.

The tighter border enforcement, meant to cut down on the flow of illegal immigrants and narcotics across the Mexican-U.S. border, comes as Arizona prepares to begin enforcing its tough new immigration law July 27. The Obama administration and others have gone to court to challenge the law, which authorizes law enforcement officers to ask people to produce documentation if there is "reasonable suspicion" they are in the country illegally.

The National Guard Southwest border deployments, along with Arizona, include 250 soldiers heading to Texas, 224 to California, 72 to New Mexico and 130 serving in command control and support positions, Napolitano said.

In May, President Obama authorized the deployment of up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border areas.

"The National Guard is deploying in response to (Homeland Security's) request for assistance and will serve in law enforcement support roles consistent with the administration's view that border security is a law enforcement challenge," Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in a statement.

Obama has requested an additional $600 million in supplemental funds for border protection and law enforcement, Napolitano said.

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