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Ariz.: Border states getting 2,500 troops

The 55 soldiers from the Utah National Guard are just the first of thousands of National Guard troops being sent to the US southern border to reinforce the Border Patrol. They are expected to perform duties of flying reconnaissance missions, communications, intelligence analysis, training support, and road and fence construction, all of which will free Border Patrol agents to focus on the apprehension of illegals crossing the border. The idea of using the military to support border patrol is not a new one. Fifteen years ago, at the height of the ?War on Drugs?, AWACS aircraft piloted by USAF Reserve and active crews flew missions on our southern borders in attempts to pick-up drug runner aircraft bringing drugs into the US. The National Guard has been providing similar assistance along the Arizona border for more than 15 years, and in New Mexico, 68 National Guard troops are performing full-time support missions. The 55 troops from Utah will join the 170 already on duty from the Arizona Guard with another 300 expected to arrive shortly. Members of Congress and state Governors have voiced their support or concerns about the stopgap measure to send up to 6,000 National Guard soldiers to the four southern border states. Texas is the largest of the four, occupying two-thirds of the nation?s border with Mexico . Securing the borders with Mexico by using National Guard troops until the Border Patrol can hire and train additional agents will fix only part of the problem. Many concerned parties are highlighting the little-acknowledged fact that nearly half of the 12 million undocumented foreigners in the US arrive on authentic visas, just as all of the 9/11 attackers did prior to entering flight training and preparing for their attacks. These ?overstays,? as they are referred to by immigration authorities, are being overlooked in the ongoing posturing by elected officials. ?The southwestern border gets all the attention, but it?s staggering the number of people who come and overstay their visas,? said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ?It?s a very large-scale problem.? The US State Department issued nearly 5.4 million temporary, nonimmigrant visas in 2005, with about 17% going to Mexicans. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center indicated that 45% of the undocumented workers in the US overstayed legal visas. Additionally, the recent arrest of the 17 home grown Canadian terrorist and the apprehension of Ahmed Ressam as he tried to smuggle explosives over the Canadian border in Washington state in 1999 , indicate that our northern border also bares close watching and a greater degree of security.

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