- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

The first contingent of National Guard troops — a 55-member platoon from Utah — has arrived in Arizona to help protect the U.S.-Mexico border and is expected to build fences, repair roads and erect better border lighting as part of President Bush’s plan to crack down on illegal entry.

The soldiers arrived for the weekend in San Luis, Ariz., about 25 miles south of Yuma, which has surfaced in recent months as one of the busiest illegal alien corridors in the country. The U.S. Border Patrol’s Yuma sector is responsible for 118 miles of the border with Mexico, with apprehensions of illegal aliens — 100,000 through May — up 13 percent from the same period last year.

The presence of National Guard troops, who are not expected to perform law-enforcement functions, is aimed at freeing up Border Patrol agents to focus on enforcement along the border. A total of 300 National Guard troops are expected in Arizona by June 15.

Mr. Bush has proposed sending 6,000 National Guard troops to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The 55 Guard members in Arizona are from the 116th, 1457th and 489th units of the Utah National Guard and arrived Saturday aboard a C-130 cargo plane. They will help repair and expand a 12-foot-high corrugated metal fence that separates San Luis and Mexico and a chain-link fence 50 yards inside the border.

Last week, Mr. Bush said 6,000 National Guard troops will be deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border to assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads and providing training.

“In other words, they’re going to be a complement to the Border Patrol. The Guard units will not be involved in direct law-enforcement activities. That’s the job of the Border Patrol,” he said. “The United States is not going to militarize our border. What we’re going to do is support those who we hire to do the job of enforcing the border.”

Mr. Bush said that as the Border Patrol hires additional agents and as new technologies become available, the Guard force will be reduced — probably by 2008.

“The federal government’s working to conclude formal agreements with California and Arizona and New Mexico and Texas that will define the roles and responsibilities of National Guard units deploying to the southern border,” he said in a speech Thursday before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We’re going to work closely with the governors of those states to secure this border.”

Last year, the Tucson and Yuma sectors of the Border Patrol apprehended more than half of the 1.15 million foreigners caught trying to sneak into the United States.

On Sunday, T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 10,500 of the Border Patrol’s nonsupervisory agents, said during a speech in Las Vegas that he doubted the deployment of 6,000 Guard troops on the border will stop the flow of illegal aliens.

“It’s great to have help, but they’re only going to be able to do so much,” said Mr. Bonner, a 28-year Border Patrol veteran. “The answer is to turn off the employer magnet, focus on the reason people are crossing borders.”

Mr. Bonner has vigorously argued that although most politicians know that the availability of jobs draws people to illegally enter the United States, few have supported legislation addressing the problem. He said the pending immigration enforcement bills in the House and Senate fail to “effectively reduce the employment magnet.”

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