WASHINGTON, July 19 (Xinhua) -- The Pentagon on Monday announced it is sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border states for a one-year deployment to provide temporary support for stemming illegal immigration and criminal investigation.
Troops are expected to begin deploying to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California by Aug. 1. All 1,200 troops should be on the ground by September, National Guard Bureau chief Craig McKinley said Monday at a Pentagon news conference.
The armed troops will serve alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents for one year as an augmentation force. They will work to prevent illegal immigration and drug trafficking north of the border, as well as to counter weapons and cash smuggling going south, Alan Bersin, CBP commissioner, said at the news conference.
The deployment will give CBP and the Department of Homeland Security the time to hire and train 1,000 more border patrol agents and CBP officers, Bersin said.
Some troops will work as criminal and intelligence analysts. Others will support CBP entry identification teams. Troops operating in those capacities are undergoing training now, McKinley noted. Also, about 300 guardsmen are already on the ground working on counternarcotics teams, he added.
Troops will be armed during the deployment. However, their weapons are for self-defense purposes, McKinley explained. The CBP and border patrol agents "have the lead" and determine the amount of force necessary for certain situations, he added.
The troops will only be deployed on the United States side of the border and will follow the rules of engagement set by the agencies in each state, McKinley said. He added that the troops will fall under the command and control of the state governors.
Illegal immigration is a hot-button topic in the United States. The Obama administration has filed a lawsuit to block a new immigration law of Arizona, which requires state and local police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant.
The Arizona law is supposed to take effect on July 29. The Justice Department argues it violates the U.S. Constitution because immigration laws are supposed to be the federal government 's responsibility. However, Arizona officials have said the federal government has failed to address the problem.