- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

Since the arrival of National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol along the Mexican border from Texas to California, about 1,250 illegal aliens have been detained as part of “Operation Jump Start” — President Bush’s $770 million program to help secure America’s Southern border.

The operation, which could last up to two years, is designed to free up Border Patrol agents for expanded protection along the 1,951-mile Southwest border, with National Guard troops building additional roads and fences, adding cameras and sensors, conducting aerial reconnaissance and providing medical aid and communications support.

The National Guard troops also will perform administrative duties, gather intelligence from border cameras for agents to act on, assist at highway checkpoints and serve on entry-identification teams. The operation is expected to give the Border Patrol time to recruit and train 6,000 new agents and bring its field strength to 17,000.

“We’re not putting up to 6,000 armed National Guardsmen on the border as a show of force,” said National Guard Bureau Chief Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum. “We are in support of a Homeland Security operation, or a Customs and Border Protection operation.”

Many of the 3,300 National Guard troops stationed in the border states volunteered for the mission.

Bureau of Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel at the agency’s Washington headquarters said that since the beginning of Jump Start in early June, Border Patrol agents — assisted by National Guard entry-identification teams — have apprehended 1,251 aliens.

Using state-of-the-art detection technology, video equipment and infrared technology, Mr. Friel said the four-person teams monitor the border from strategic observation points along the border.

In addition, he said, National Guard troops have helped the Border Patrol seize nearly 12,400 pounds of marijuana and 190 pounds of cocaine.

Mr. Friel said more than 180 Border Patrol agents have returned to direct border-security duties as National Guard troops relieve agents of non-law-enforcement responsibilities.

“The National Guard plays no direct law-enforcement role in any apprehension, custodial care or security of anyone who is detained,” he said. “Members of the Guard support border-security efforts by participating on entry-identification teams, operating cameras, monitoring remote video-surveillance systems, repairing vehicles, and constructing and maintaining tactical infrastructure.”

“Customs and Border Protection is moving forward, on a bridge to the 6,000 net Border Patrol agents that will be hired by the end of calendar year ‘08 and the tactical infrastructure that will be built between now and then,” said Chief of U.S. Border Patrol David Aguilar.

The Border Patrol is part of Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, a Department of Homeland Security agency charged with the management, control and protection of the nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry.

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