- The Washington Times - Friday, June 17, 2011

President Obama notified Congress Friday he will keep 1,200 National Guard troops on the border for at least another three months, following demands from southwest lawmakers who said there is still work to be done on security.

The deployment had been scheduled to expire at the end of this month, but Homeland Security Spokesman Matthew Chandler said they are still needed while the department hires more U.S. Border Patrol agents and buys the technology Congress has authorized for the southwest border.

“The National Guard is acting as a critical bridge while the administration brings new assets online to pursue additional people, technology, and infrastructure dedicated to further strengthen our already unprecedented border security and management,” he said.

Seeking to quell concerns about border violence last year, Mr. Obama deployed the 1,200 troops and asked Congress for hundreds of millions of dollars to add 1,000 more agents and pay for technology and infrastructure.

Guard troops are not engaged in actual immigration law enforcement, but rather help with infrastructure and intelligence operations. Mr. Chandler said they’ve aided in the seizure of more than 14,000 pounds of drugs and apprehension of more than 7,000 illegal immigrants.

In 2006, President George W. Bush sent 6,000 guard troops to the border.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, praised Mr. Obama’s decision, but said the president should not shy away from another time extension.

“With bullets from Mexico crossing into Texas as recently as this month, we need to ensure there are adequate resources and manpower deployed to the border,” he said.

Apprehensions of illegal immigrants on the border with Mexico have dropped by nearly three-quarters, from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000 to just 447,731 in 2010.

Homeland Security officials say the drop shows fewer people are trying to cross, which means the enforcement boost along the border is working. Critics say the sluggish economy is also responsible for fewer trying to cross.



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