The Obama administration confirmed Tuesday that it will send 1,200 National Guard [official website] troops to the US-Mexican border in an effort to deter drug smuggling and illegal immigration. They will join the 300 National Guard troops and 26,000 border and customs officials already stationed at the border. The troops will assist [AP report] border agents in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, but will not be directly engaged in law enforcement activities. Additionally, the administration will request a $500 million supplemental appropriations bill from Congress in order to assist in law enforcement efforts along the border. Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) [official website] has expressed support [Miami Herald report] for the move, describing it as a good start. Arizona Senators John McCain (R) and Jon Kyl (R) [official websites] also described [press release] it as an "important first step," but continued:
[T]he President is not sending enough troops. We believe the situation on the border is far worse today than it was [in 2006] due to the escalating violence between the Mexican drug cartels and the Mexican government. For this reason, we need to deploy at least 6,000 National Guard troops to the border region. The fact that President Obama announced today that he will only be sending one-fifth of the troops we believe are required is a weak start and does not demonstrate an understanding of the current situation in the region.McCain and Kyl introduced an amendment [text, PDF] on Wednesday that would appropriate $250 million of unused funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 [text, PDF] to fund the deployment of 6,000 troops.
The deployment comes amid an effort by President Barack Obama to garner Republican support for proposed immigration reform legislation. Renewed pressure for congressional action on the issue has come after Arizona passed a bill [JURIST report] making it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requiring state police to verify the immigration status of those suspected of being in the country illegally. The bill has faced sharp criticism from Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and the international community [JURIST reports]. The effort is the first attempt at immigration reform since the failed [JURIST report] Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill [S 1639 materials] in 2007. In 2006, former US president George W. Bush [official profile] announced [JURIST report] the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border as a prime element in a wide-ranging plan to 'fix' problems created by illegal immigration.