PHOENIX – Gov. Janet Napolitano on Wednesday ordered more National Guardsmen posted at the Mexican border to help stop illegal immigrants and curb related crimes.
National Guard troops have worked at the border since 1988, but Napolitano signed an order authorizing commanders to station an unspecified number of additional soldiers there to help federal agents.
Once the funding is approved, the troops will monitor crossing points, assist with cargo inspection and operate surveillance cameras, according to the order.
"They are not there to militarize the border," the governor said. "We are not at war with Mexico."
About 170 National Guardsmen are already posted at the nation's busiest illegal entry point, where they assist with communications, fence construction and anti-drug efforts.
Napolitano did not say how many additional troops would be stationed at the border and referred questions to the National Guard, which did not immediately return a call.
The Democratic governor proposed sending troops to the border more than two months ago. Her critics in the Republican-led Legislature then introduced a bill requiring her to do so and providing $10 million for the project.
The bill won final approval Wednesday in the House and was headed to the governor, but she promised to veto the measure, saying it infringes on her constitutional powers as commander in chief of the Arizona National Guard.
Napolitano has asked the military to pay for her plan, but said she would commit state dollars if necessary.
The governor declared an immigration emergency last summer in Arizona's four border counties, citing security shortcomings by the federal government.