WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will dispatch up to 1,200 National Guard troops to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border and will ask Congress for $500 million to shore up law enforcement in the Southwest and provide other border protection tools.
The additional troops will help fight narcotics trafficking across the border, provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, and help train border agents until the Customs and Border Protection service can recruit and train additional agents itself.
The money would pay for more agents, investigators and prosecutors along the border, beef up Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security work there, and improve rapid sharing of information with state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.
The White House called it "a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons and money."
Aides did not say how quickly the troops would be dispatched. They also did not say whether the money would be borrowed and added to the debt, or financed by cutting other spending or raising taxes.
The move comes as Obama's push for comprehensive immigration reform has been overrun by complaints that the federal government has failed to secure the border.
Those complaints have been escalating since the shooting of an Arizona rancher on March 27 and reached a crescendo with that state's enactment of a tough new law aimed at using local police to crack down on illegal immigrants.
White House aides hoped the troops and cash would help answer the demand to fix the border first, making it easier to push through a broad reform that would include a possible path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.
More than 20,000 Border Patrol agents are deployed now, mostly along the nation's southern border.