PHOENIX (AP) – The four states along the Mexico border will have 2,500 National Guard troops on border duty by the end of the month, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano said Friday after meeting with federal officials.

President Bush outlined a plan last month that calls for the Guard to be used in support roles to free up U.S. Border Patrol agents for illegal immigration enforcement.

The first unit started work Monday near San Luis on chores including road improvements, filling gaps in fencing and running wiring for new lighting to help the Border Patrol spot illegal crossers.

Under Bush’s plan, the troops will be used until the Border Patrol can add more agents. The president called for hiring and training an additional 6,000 Border Patrol agents by 2008, which would increase the force’s size to more than 18,000.

The Guard will assist Border Patrol agents in the field by monitoring video surveillance of borders and providing helicopters to find illegal immigrants. Bilingual troops will act as translators.

Although Guard troops will not apprehend illegal immigrants or perform law enforcement duties, some of them will carry weapons, depending on the location and nature of their missions, said Emanuel Pacheco, a spokesman at National Guard headquarters in Washington.

“Troops will have the inherent right of self-defense,” he said.

AP-ES-06-09-06 1954EDT


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