Hundreds of National Guard troops are expected to begin their deployment to the US-Mexico border on August 1 as part of the Obama administration’s attempt to halt the flow of weapons, cash and people to El Norte.
In a joint announcement with the National Guard Bureau, the Obama administration said it will send 1,200 troops to border regions, as per an agreement made in May. The soldiers are expected to go to Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico.
The announcement of a firm date for the troop surge comes on the tail of the federal governments suit against Arizona over its anti-immigrant law SB 1070, which would allow police to question anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant, and as drug-related violence in Mexico continues unabated.
The decision to further militarize the border is a cornerstone of American policy both at home and in the region, said David Bacon, a journalist who has reported extensively on the plight of migrants in Mexico, the United States and the Philippines, along with the macro political events pushing their movement.
Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and former Arizona governor, said the troops heading to the border will be equipped with enhanced security technology like thermal-imaging binoculars and observation aircraft to focus on the area around Tucson.
Arizona will also be where the largest number of troops, 524, are deployed. Meanwhile, of the rest of the volunteer force, 224 will be sent to Texas, 224 to California and 72 to New Mexico.
In addition, 300 agents and officers from the United States Customs and Border Protection will also head to the border, according to Alan Bersin, Customs and Border Protection commissioner.
The Border Patrol, which grew from 9,000 agents in 2001 to 20,000 in 2009, costs an estimated $4 billion annually. The cost of this deployment will be shared between the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department.
These forces will be stationed along more than 670 miles of border fence, walls, spikes and bollards being constructed since 2006, at an estimated cost of $4 billion.
While the focus of border enforcement is also to stop the smuggling of drugs and other illegal substances into the United States, the conversation politically has centered on stemming the flow of undocumented immigrants. “Sealing” the border has long been a precondition for any immigration legislation considered and with immigration reform now on the table, Obama has taken up the mantle of a stronger border.
More on the militarization of the border here.