Obama administration extends National Guard deployment at southwest border
The Obama administration has extended the deployment of National Guard troops along the southwest border for an additional three months, said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler Friday.
The 1,200 National Guardsmen sent to assist the Border Patrol in August 2010 were scheduled to stand down at the end of June, but have been ordered to remain in place until Sept. 30.
The move is intended keep pressure on illegal border crossings while DHS rolls out more personnel, fences and sensors.
National Guard troops are not authorized to stop smugglers or make arrests, and instead have acted as lookouts for Border Patrol and provided logistical and intelligence support, freeing up more frontline law enforcement officers to stop cross-border traffic.
The troops were sent to the border last summer as a temporary surge of manpower after Congress approved $600-million for DHS to hire 1,000 additional Border Patrol agents, 250 officers at ports of entry and 250 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
DHS is spending part of that cash infusion on new mobile camera towers, fencing and increasing the number of surveillance drone flights along the southwest border.
The extension of the National Guard units will act as a “critical bridge” while DHS continues to spend the extra cash from Congress, train new hires and purchase new equipment, said DHS spokesman Chandler.
Since being deployed last summer, National Guard soldiers have assisted DHS with the seizure of more than 14,000 pounds of drugs and spotted illegal crossings that lead to more than 7,000 Border Patrol arrests.
“The administration has made the right decision” to extend the National Guard on the border, said House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith in a statement on Friday.
“But they should consider keeping them there longer if needed,” Smith said.
Since 2004, the Border Patrol has doubled in size to more than 20,700 agents.
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