A US border patrol vehicle guards the bank of the Bravo River, the natural border between the cities of El Paso, Texas in the United States and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on April 4, 2018. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered the National Guard to deploy to America's southern border, ratcheting up pressure on Mexico and taking another step in his quest to clamp down on illegal immigration.
HERIKA MARTINEZ—AFP/Getty Images
By Maya Rhodan
April 12, 2018

National Guard troops have begun their deployment along the Southern border, marking a swift realization of President Donald Trump’s call for a boosted border presence until his long-promised border wall is constructed.

Each of the four states that border Mexico have agreed to send National Guard troops to patrol the region.

The governors of Arizona and Texas announced almost immediately that they’d be cooperating. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has sent more than 300 troops to the border in Arizona so far this week.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that 250 troops were headed to the border. In an interview with radio station KTSA on Monday, Abbott said he wants to send 300 troops every week until there are at least 1,000 service members on duty.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, also a Republican, said 80 troops will be at the border starting this week and a total of 250 are expected, according to the Associated Press.

Even Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California, whose state has drawn the ire of President Trump given its sanctuary policies, is cooperating — although he was much more explicit about what he wants the National Guard’s role to be. In a letter addressed to Secretaries Mattis and Nielsen, Brown said he wants the 400 National Guard troops stationed across his state to “supplement the staffing of its ongoing program to combat transnational crime.”

“But let’s be clear about the scope of this mission,” Brown’s letter reads. “This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis has authorized the deployment of up to 4,000 troops on the U.S. border with Mexico. The National Guard troops will not be able to perform law enforcement activities while they are stationed on the border. According to a Pentagon memo, they will also be armed under limited circumstances, mainly self-defense.

Reports from the areas, however, show that the scope of National Guard’s activities is primarily limited to observing and reporting activity along the border.

The deployment has come together relatively quickly. President Trump mentioned that troops were being deployed during an unrelated meeting with Baltic leaders early last week. His statements came amid a series of furious tweets about a caravan of Central American migrants that was traveling north through Mexico. By the next day, the Homeland Security Secretary was outlining the plan to deploy troops at the White House Press Briefing.

Administration officials have said the deployment is necessary to stem the flow of migrants crossing the southern border illegally. Border crossings had reached historic lows during the first year of Trump’s presidency, but began to rise in March of this year. Compared to historic figures, however, crossings are still low.

Sending troops to the border is not unprecedented. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both deployed the National Guard to the border during their administrations.

Gov. Abbott said this week that Texas has upped the Guard’s presence on its own in the past and that troops have maintained a continuous presence on the border throughout his administration. “This is old news for the state of Texas,” Abbott told KTSA.

Write to Maya Rhodan at maya.rhodan@time.com.

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