President Obama will deploy 1,200 National Guard troops and request an extra $500 million to secure the Mexican border, his administration said Tuesday, a move dismissed by Republicans as insufficient to win their cooperation on an overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
By reinforcing the 340 Guard members already monitoring border crossings and analyzing intelligence, the initiative echoes 2006's Operation Jump Start, in which President George W. Bush devoted 6,000 guardsmen to a two-year commitment in support of the Border Patrol.
Then, as now, the troop deployment was fueled by heightened concerns about lawlessness -- then it was illegal immigration, now it is drug traffickers -- as well as political maneuvering in Washington to lay the groundwork for an effort to change immigration policy. But the issue remains bitterly contentious, with increasing pressure on Obama and lawmakers from both Latino supporters and conservative activists.
The March 27 killing of Robert Krentz, a prominent Arizona rancher who had reported drug-smuggling activity on his land, has galvanized political anger toward illegal immigration in that state, although the identity of Krentz's assailant remains under investigation.