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Administration details National Guard duties on border

Dean DeChiaro, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- About 900 National Guard troops have been deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border to help carry out President Donald Trump's border security agenda, administration officials said Monday.

An estimated 250 troops have been deployed in Arizona, 60 in New Mexico and roughly 650 in Texas, said Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, vice chief of the National Guard Bureau. Trump has said he wants 2,000 to 4,000 troops deployed.

Under the current mission, the Guard troops will not be involved in any law enforcement activities and will not come into contact with undocumented immigrants who are caught crossing the border, said Border Patrol Chief Ronald D. Vitiello.

"Border security is and will remain a civilian operation," Vitiello said at a news conference.

If the mission changes in the future, it will not involve the Guard being asked to help with immigration enforcement, said Vitiello.

"That's a red line," he said. "They will not be given assignments that require them to do law enforcement work."

Trump said in early April he would work with border-state governors to deploy troops along the U.S.-Mexico border to counter rising levels of illegal immigration and other threats, including drug smuggling.

Illegal border traffic has risen sharply in recent months but is still considerably lower than in recent years. The Border Patrol apprehended 37,393 undocumented immigrants in March, compared with 26,662 in February, the Homeland Security Department said.

California National Guard troops are not currently involved in the mission, Vitiello said. The state's Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, told the administration Monday he will not agree to contribute troops because the administration's requested services -- including surveillance and engineering work -- are closely related to immigration enforcement.

Brown said last week he would agree to deploy 400 troops as long as they were not involved in immigration enforcement duties. The administration asked him to send 237 troops, officials said.

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