President Barack Obama will deploy up to 1,200 National Guard troops to help secure the Southwest Border against Mexican drug cartels, White House officials said Tuesday.
Obama also is requesting that Congress approve $500 million for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities as part of an emergency spending bill expected to come to the Senate floor this week.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a bipartisan group of border state lawmakers in Congress have been urging Obama to send in National Guard
troops to respond to the high-profile violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 20,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence, and Arizona law enforcement officials have complained of increased home-invasion robberies and other crime in the state’s border towns.
“Washington has heard our message, the president has responded with more boots on the ground, and we’re going to work to make sure that we continue to take border security seriously,” said Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
Giffords has been calling for the deployment since immediately after the March 27 murder of Cochise County rancher Robert Krentz.The White House has not said exactly where the troops will be stationed, but Giffords said no place is as desperate for help as Southern Arizona.
While Giffords welcomed the announcement, the White House action is not expected to satisfy everyone. Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans, unveiled a border action plan last month calling for the immediate deployment of 3,000 National Guard troops – more than twice as many as Obama is sending.
In 2006, President George W. Bush dispatched National Guard troops to the border to help with support duties until the Border Patrol was able to increase its staffing levels. The Border Patrol today has more than 20,000 agents nationwide, the vast majority of whom are assigned to guard the U.S.-Mexico border.
The border issue is one with far-reaching political ramifications in Arizona, which is about to enter its hotly contested mid-term election season.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor, called the troop deployment and the request for additional funding a “very significant response,” but suggested that more help might be needed.
Goddard, who sent a letter to the Obama administration on April 20, outlining the state’s border security needs, also said the federal government should consider giving the National Guard additional law enforcement authority, including express authorization to stop illegal immigrants from entering the country.
The troops being deployed by Obama will work primarily on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and will be there mainly to supplement existing Customs and Border Protection agents, officials have said. That was also the role the troops played in 2006, when then-President George W. Bush deployed them to the Southwest border as part of Operation Jump Start.
Brewer was silent on the troop announcement for most of the day Tuesday, despite the fact that the Governor has been all over local and national airwaves in recent weeks blasting the administration’s inaction on the border.
A spokesman said the governor hadn’t been told of the move prior to her office being contacted by the media. By mid-afternoon however, Brewer, who was scheduled to be on vacation and not working this week, issued a lengthy statement in which she said that the day’s media reports “represent a very significant and important shift in the President’s immigration and border security policy.”
“My signing of Senate Bill 1070 has clearly ignited the talk of action in Washington for the people of Arizona and other border states,” Brewer said. “I am pleased that President Obama has now, apparently, agreed that our nation must secure the border to address rampant border violence and illegal immigration.”
Brewer, who has seen her job approval ratings soar in the wake of signing Senate Bill 1070, the state’s tough new immigration law, has jumped on the immigration issue as a major campaign cornerstone. Her office has previously released multiple letters she has written to the Administration and Congressional leaders, including one dated last Thursday in which she asked the federal government to reallocate some of the nation’s network of OH-58 Kiowa helicopters to Arizona for use in border missions.
Brewer, in interviews with The Arizona Republic, has said that the federal government has “turned a blind eye” to her requests and that she has never “been dignified with a response.”
A spokesman for her office told the Associated Press that the governor hadn’t been told of the move prior to her office being contacted by the media, and that he had no immediate comment.
The White House did not say Tuesday what prompted President Obama to authorize the deployment.
But an administration official released a statement that said deploying the guard is part of the President’s “strategic and integrated approach” to border security.
“(It) will provide immediate enhancement to the unprecedented and ongoing border protection and security efforts that over the last 16 months have increased pressure on illegal trafficking organizations,” the officials said, adding, “it will also help build on a complement the strong security partnership with Mexico on display during last week’s State Visit.
The White House said it plans to continue to work with Congress to fix the nation’s immigration system through “comprehensive reform.”
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/pinal/articles/2010/05/25/20100525president-obama-troops-arizona-mexico-border.html#ixzz0p6HnYlhz