PHOENIX (AP) — National guard contingents in U.S. states bordering Mexico awaited guidance Thursday on the what duties they’ll be assigned to help fight illegal immigration and drug smuggling along the border, and a Pentagon official said it has not yet been determined whether the troops will be armed.
The deployment is in “very early planning stages,” the National Guard in Texas said in a statement.
In Washington, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon that it has not yet been determined how many, if any, of the troops participating in the border security operation will be armed.
With troops in all states, the National Guard has been called on by past presidents and governors to help secure U.S. borders, and the Texas contingent said it had “firsthand knowledge of the mission and operating area” that will allow it to move seamlessly into the new role.
The Republican governors of the border states of Arizona and New Mexico also welcomed deployment of the guard along the southwest border as a matter of public safety, but it was unclear how Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown would respond to Trump’s call.
Trump ordered the deployment because “we are at a crisis point” with illegal immigration, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security said.
“We’d like to stop it before the numbers get even bigger,” she said.
Though no specifics were provided, Nielsen said guard members would provide support to border officials, “help look at the technology, the surveillance, in some cases we’ll ask for some fleet mechanics” and free up agents trained in law enforcement for other duties.
She said she did not know yet how many guard members would be deployed.
Determining that must “wait until each mission’s set, each location and then work with the governor on how many people.”
In Mexico, the country’s politicians put aside differences to condemn Trump’s deployment decision.
Mexico’s Senate passed a resolution Wednesday calling for the suspension of cooperation on illegal immigration and drug trafficking in retaliation for Trump’s move.
Presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya went further, saying Mexico should limit anti-terrorism cooperation until the National Guard is withdrawn. Anaya is the candidate of a left-right coalition in the country’s July 1 presidential election.
Ruling-party candidate Jose Antonio Meade said that “independently of our political differences, it is time for all the presidential candidates to unite in defense of the sovereignty and dignity of the nation … to reject and repudiate thus kind of measure.”
Associated Press staff writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston, Bob Christie and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix, Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Russell Contreras in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Zeke Miller and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.