Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guard numbers on border to be halved

"We're glad that the number of troops is decreasing, but it would be even better if there were no National Guard on the border."
- Jennifer Allen, director of Border Action Network.
(What border, Jennnifer? Without guards there is no border.)
**
Support mission to end entirely by Sept. 2008
By Brady McCombs
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson Region
Published: 07.25.2007
**
The number of National Guard troops along the Arizona-Mexico border will be trimmed in half by the end of next month.
As the presidentially mandated Operation Jumpstart mission begins its second year in support of the U.S. Border Patrol, the number of troops is being reduced as planned. It will be trimmed from 6,000 to 3,000 nationally and from 2,400 to 1,200 in Arizona, said National Guard Capt. Kristine Munn. The pullout began July 1 and is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1.
Since arriving in June 2006, National Guard soldiers have helped free up agents to patrol by manning radios and control rooms, and repairing vehicles, roads and fences. They have also provided extra eyes and ears on the border with observation posts called entrance identification teams stationed along the border on hills or peaks.
The federal government has spent $899,416 on the mission in fiscal years 2006-07, said Lt. Col. Mike Milord, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau in Virginia. It is scheduled to run through the end of fiscal year 2008, which ends in September 2008.
The downsizing of the National Guard forces will be detrimental to the Border Patrol's efforts to slow illegal immigration, said agency officials, the local union and a former agency supervisor.
"If they are going to reduce the number of National Guard on the line it means there are fewer bodies out there to deter and observe and report intrusions," said Dave Stoddard, a former Border Patrol supervisor who retired in 1996 after 27 years with the agency, and lives in Bisbee. "It's going to hurt, but how much we really don't know yet."
Others, though, say good riddance. The Guard presence has increased the militarization of the border and forced illegal entrants to try crossing in more remote areas, said Jennifer Allen, director of Border Action Network, a Tucson-based immigrants' rights organization...

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