WASHINGTON - National Guard troops will head to the US-Mexico border August 1 for a yearlong deployment to keep a lookout for illegal border crossers and smugglers and help in criminal investigations, US federal officials said Monday.
The troops will be armed but can use their weapons only to protect themselves, Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told a Pentagon news conference. The troops will undergo initial training and be deployed fully along the nearly 2,000-mile (3220-kilometer) southern border by September.
The announcement provides details on how the government will implement US President Barack Obama's May decision to bolster border security. Drug-related violence has escalated in Mexico, where several people died during the weekend in a car bombing and in a separate massacre at a private party. The announcement also comes as the US debate over illegal immigration has intensified in the buildup to congressional elections in November.