Washington: Under pressure to take action, President Barack Obama has ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the U.S.-Mexico border, pre-empting Republican efforts to force a congressional vote to send the troops.
Obama will also request $500 million for border protection and law enforcement activities, according to lawmakers and administration officials.
The president`s action comes as chances for comprehensive immigration reform, Obama`s long-stated goal, look increasingly dim in this election year. Obama has been all but compelled to do something since Arizona`s passage of a tough illegal-immigration law thrust the border problem into the public spotlight.
Indeed, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer credited her signing of the controversial new law for compelling Obama to act. Signing the law, Brewer said in a statement, "clearly ignited the talk of action in Washington for the people of Arizona and other border states."
The National Guard troops will work on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, analysis and training, and support efforts to block drug trafficking. They will temporarily supplement Border Patrol agents until Customs and Border Protection can recruit and train additional officers and agents to serve on the border, according to a letter Tuesday from top administration security officials to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.
In 2006, President George W. Bush sent thousands of troops to the border to perform support duties that tie up immigration agents. But that program has since ended, and politicians in border states have called for troops to be sent to curb human and drug smuggling and to deal with Mexico`s drug violence that has been spilling over into the United States.
The White House released the letter signed by national security adviser James Jones and White House counterterror chief John Brennan not long after Obama met at the Capitol with Republican senators who pressed him on immigration issues, including the question of sending troops to the border.
Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl have been urging such a move, and Republicans planned to try to require it as an amendment to a pending war spending bill.