WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. National Guard troops being deployed along the border with Mexico will play mostly unseen support roles, the Border Patrol says.
As the first of what will be 1,200 troops by early September began heading to the border, U.S. officials dispelled widely held conjecture that armed soldiers will line the 2,000-mile stretch, ABC News reported.
"There is a misunderstanding about what deployment means," Border Patrol Agent Mario Escalante of Arizona's Tucson sector said.
Guard members will assist Border Patrol agents and local law enforcement with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, Escalante said.
"It's starting to unfold; we've gotten several people in. We're starting to look at what we have and where we might need (more troops)," Escalante said.
In May, President Barack Obama authorized the deployment, which includes 524 troops to Arizona, 224 to California, 72 to New Mexico and 130 in command and support positions.
Critics, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, have called the deployment inadequate. McCain has said 6,000 troops are needed.
Guard members volunteer for one-year, active-duty commitments, requiring them to temporarily leave their civilian jobs.
The beginning of the deployment comes days after Arizona's tough new immigration law took effect, intensifying the debate over immigration in the state and throughout the nation.
The Obama administration and others have sued to challenge the law, which requires law enforcement officers to ask for documentation of people they stop or detain if "reasonable suspicion" exists they are in the country illegally.