PHOENIX — The first of 532 National Guard troops are set to begin their mission in the southern Arizona desert on Monday under President Obama's plan to beef up U.S.-Mexico border security, although they won't have any law enforcement authority.
About 30 troops will start their jobs on the border Monday, and more will deploy every Monday until all 532 are expected to be on the Arizona border by the end of September. In May, Obama ordered 1,200 National Guard troops to boost security along the border.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said the first of 224 National Guard troops allocated for his state have finished their training and are expected to be deployed to the state's border on Wednesday.
Troops in New Mexico were in different stages of training and don't yet know when they'll be deployed on the border. A Texas National Guard spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.
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The troops will be "extra eyes and ears" for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, and though they will have guns for self-defense, they will not have the authority to arrest anyone, said Arizona National Guard spokesman Lt. Valentine Castillo.
He said if troops spot illegal immigrants, they must report them to the Border Patrol, whose agents would make the arrest.
The troops will be stationed in the desert at "strategic locations" along the border, he said, but did not provide specifics.
Mario Escalante, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, said the troops will use binoculars, night-vision equipment, remote cameras and computers to conduct surveillance on the border, and will have radios to communicate with Border Patrol agents.
They'll be set up at high points in various locations in the desert, he said.
"Having those resources and deploying them adequately makes us more effective," he said.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, whose territory is along the border with Mexico and includes Nogales, said any additional manpower on the border is welcome and will help.