Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

McCain, Kyl want Guard troops on border

SCOTTSDALE – U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl said Wednesday that they support sending National Guard troops to the nation’s southern border to guard against spillover violence from Mexico’s drug war.

McCain told a crowd at a business luncheon that border violence has reached a point where the government should respond to requests from the governors of Arizona and Texas to station additional Guard troops at the border.

“I don’t envision it for an extended period of time, but right now, we need the Guard on the border because of this violence,” McCain said in response to a question from an Arizona National Guard member.

Govs. Jan Brewer of Arizona and Rick Perry of Texas have asked the federal government to send troops to the border to strengthen security there. Brewer’s office has said her request was prompted by a combination of Arizona’s problems from immigrant and drug smuggling and rising violence in Mexico’s drug war.

Mexico’s government is battling drug cartels at the same time that drug groups are fighting each other for the most lucrative smuggling routes into the United States. More than 10,650 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon sent out 45,000 troops in 2006 to directly confront the traffickers.

Although there is disagreement in law enforcement circles about whether Arizona has already experienced spillover violence from Mexico, immigration agents over the years have noted alarming violence in the immigrant smuggling business, and Phoenix has experienced a rash of kidnappings tied to the drug and immigrant smuggling business.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has plans to send nearly 500 federal agents and support personnel to the border.

After speaking at the luncheon held by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kyl said Guard members did an effective job in the past of assisting federal border authorities and deterring drug and immigrant smuggling operations.

“There is something about the U.S. military that (the smugglers) don’t want to mess with,” Kyl said.

The Bush administration sent thousands of Guard troops to the border to perform support duties so that federal border authorities would be freed up to focus on border security. Bush’s buildup began in 2006 and ended last year.

A much smaller group of Guard troops is already working at certain border points as part of a long-standing program in which National Guard troops assist in anti-drug efforts and help federal agents inspect vehicles at ports of entry.

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