A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle drives along the fence separating the United States from Mexico, near the town of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, on July 31. (ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
More than a third of the 1,200 National Guard troops being sent to the Southwest border are either at the border or in training to go there soon, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau said Wednesday.
A little more than 420 troops are either at the border or in training with homeland security officials in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, spokesman Jack Harrison said.
He could not say exactly how many are still in training and how many are already on the job supporting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, and Customs and Border Patrol agents.
Unlike previous Guard deployments to the border, the troops will come from the states where they will be stationed and will volunteer for the mission, Harrison said.
During the Bush administration, thousands of guardsmen from throughout the nation were deployed to the Mexico border as part of Operation Jump Start.
"We're seeing plenty of volunteers," Harrison said in a news conference call from the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
All 524 Guard members assigned to the Arizona-Mexico border will be volunteers from the Arizona National Guard, said Lt. Valentine Castillo, a spokesman for the Arizona guard.
In Arizona, none of those troops are at the border yet, said Lt. Valentine Castillo, a spokesman for the Arizona National Guard.
However, he said, more and more Arizona guardsmen are receiving their initial briefings in preparation for being trained by ICE to help with criminal investigations, or by CBP to man the border and alert agents to any suspicious activity.
The troops working with Customs and Border Patrol will provide manpower for the Entry Identification Teams that monitor the border, Castillo said.
"They will provide an extra set of eyes and ears," Castillo said. "The border patrol would handle any contacts of suspicious persons that we see."
Castillo said he could not say how many Arizona troops are in their initial briefing stage with the Guard or how many will soon be moving on to formal training with ICE and CBP. He said the goal is for all 524 troops to be on the border by the end of September. Harrison said as many as 1,200 guardsmen will be stationed along the border by that date as well.
In Arizona, some National Guard support personnel who perform administrative operations, such as paying the troops and finding housing for them, are already at work in Phoenix and Tucson, Castillo said.