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AZ governor pushes White House on June National Guard extension
As drug cartel violence in Mexico escalates, the governor of Arizona pushed the Obama administration to extend an upcoming deadline for National Guardsman on the southwestern border, add more aerial resources and beef up funding and plans for border protection.
In an April 25 letter to the White House, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer asked the president in soothing tones not to pull the National Guard off the border in June. There are currently 1,200 National Guard troops augmenting border patrol efforts along the southwestern border.
Brewer’s letter was sent as escalating drug cartel-fueled violence in Mexico spurred the U.S. State Department to widen its warnings to U.S. citizens traveling in the country. On April 22, the State Department issued a heightened warning about drug-related violence, especially along the border. It said although it had no evidence that U.S. travelers were being targeted and the Mexican government is working diligently to quell the violence, the country’s border with the U.S. was still a dangerous place for U.S. travelers. Over a third of U.S. citizens killed in the country died in that area, it said.
“You should be especially aware of safety and security concerns when visiting the northern border states of Northern Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas,” said the warning. “Much of the country's narcotics-related violence has occurred in the border region. More than a third of all U.S. citizens killed in Mexico in 2010 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. government were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. Narcotics-related homicide rates in the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas have increased dramatically in the past two years,” warned the department.
In her letter to the White House, Brewer said she supported the “much larger commitment to the border,” similar to the plans backed by Sen. John Kyl (R-Z) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in S. 803, the Border Security Enforcement Act of 2011, which calls for 6,000 National Guard troops, hiring 5,000 additional border patrol officers by 2016, increasing the use and number of unmanned aerial surveillance, installing double layered fencing and increasing mobile surveillance capabilities.
"I am concerned that when the current mission ends in June, the gains we have made will be immediately lost. Arizona can ill-afford that kind of loss in the effort to secure the border," said Brewer.
“In recent weeks, I have heard talk of your possible willingness to extend the presence of National Guard personnel along the southwestern border. I strongly encourage you to take this step,” she said.
She noted the Guard has been a potent presence in the area. “In the months since the mission started in October, 2010, the Arizona National Guard has been involved in approximately 19,000 observations, 10,000 apprehension assists, and 235 drug seizure arrests involving over 18 tons of marijuana,” she said. National Guard analysts, she said, are also involved in 19 active investigations of money laundering, narcotics and human trafficking.
Brewer said diverting money from the Joint Counter Narco-Terrorism Task Force (JCNTF) would also impede efforts. Such a diversion "would represent a classic 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' scheme," Brewer said.
Brewer also asked for additional aerial resources to monitor the state’s border area. She said the state currently has four OH-58 Kiowa helicopters operating in support of JCNTF operations. “An additional four to six helicopters - either OH-58 Kiowa or Lakota helicopters with required crew and additional maintenance support - would enable the JCNTF to double the flight hours to 2,000 per year,” she noted.
She also asked the White House to “make a serious commitment to a substantial border fence,” urging the president to “take a focused look at the current fence line in its entirety and whether it is an effective deterrent or obstacle to illegal activity.”