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The Department of Defense is paying $35 million to extend the National Guard mission along the U.S. – Mexican border for another three months. That will allow the National Guard to continue to support border control along the border through the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, which means it’s likely that the program will be funded in next year’s budget and the extension of funds just means that there won’t be an interruption in their service.
President Barack Obama authorized the National Guard’s mission to provide up to 1200 active duty troops to support to Customs and Border Protection agents and officers since August 2010. However, no more than 560 National Guard members have ever served during the mission and less than 560 are currently serving at the border. According to Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler, the National Guard has been a “critical bridge” to bringing more people, technology and barriers to the border. They have also been effective, helping to catch more than 7,000 illegal immigrants and make seizures of more than 14,000 pounds of marijuana as they serve in their observation posts throughout the Arizona desert.
Providing an extra set of eyes and ears to assist Customs and Border Protection agents is part of the administration’s border security plan, along with the president’s call for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. However, some critics – namely both of Arizona’s senators, Republicans John McCain and Jon Kyl – have criticized the program, saying that Obama isn’t providing enough security at the border. They’ve repeatedly called for 6,000 troops on the U.S. – Mexican border.