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WASHINGTON — National Guard troops will head to the U.S.-Mexico border Aug. 1 for a yearlong deployment to keep a lookout for illegal border crossers and smugglers and help in criminal investigations, federal officials said.
The troops will be armed but can use their weapons only to protect themselves, Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said during a Pentagon news conference. The troops will undergo initial training and be fully deployed along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border by September.
The announcement provides details on how the government will implement President Barack Obama’s May decision to bolster border security and comes as drug-related violence has escalated in Mexico, where several people died over the weekend in a car bombing and in a separate massacre at a private party. It also comes as the U.S. debate over illegal immigration has intensified in an election year.
“The border is more secure and more resourced than it has ever been, but there is more to be done,” said Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, part of the Homeland Security Department.
The 1,200 troops will be distributed among four border states, with Arizona getting 524; Texas, 250; California, 224 and New Mexico, 72. Another 130 would be assigned to a national liaison office.
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