WASHINGTON — National Guard troops will head to the U.S.-Mexico border Aug. 1 for a yearlong deployment.
The troops will be armed but can use their weapons only to protect themselves, Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told a Pentagon news conference Monday. The troops will undergo initial training and be fully deployed along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border by September.
The announcement provides details on how the government will implement President Barack Obama's May decision to bolster border security and comes as drug-related violence has escalated in Mexico, where three people died last week in a car bombing and 17 at a private party Sunday.
"The border is more secure and more resourced than it has ever been, but there is more to be done," said Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, part of the Homeland Security Department.
The 1,200 troops will be distributed among four border states, with Arizona getting 524; Texas, 250; California, 224; and New Mexico, 72. Another 130 would be assigned to a national liaison office.
Bersin also said Homeland Security will provide six more aircraft, including helicopters, to the border. He said at least 300 Customs and Border Protection agents and inspection officers would be sent to the Tucson area, along with mobile surveillance vans and additional technology.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement also is beefing up its presence in Arizona, said John Morton, the Homeland Security Department assistant secretary overseeing the agency. He said ICE is opening a new office in Ajo to focus exclusively on cross-border crime and to deploy a specialized investigative team in Douglas, near where an Arizona rancher was shot and killed while surveying his ranch on the border. Also, it will send ICE lawyers to U.S. attorneys offices to help prosecute felons who illegally re-enter the country after deportation. And it will increase the number of ICE agents in Mexico to 40, making it the largest of ICE's 63 offices in 44 countries.