PHOENIX – Governors of several border states said that National Guard troops may provide a short-term fix for enhancing security along the U.S.-Mexico border, but the federal government needs to put more immigration agents there in the future.
The governors' reactions came after President George W. Bush on Monday proposed sending as many as 6,000 Guard troops to strengthen enforcement at the border and win conservative support for an election-year overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, believes the Guard can help free up federal authorities to focus on border security but wants more immigration agents at the border and believes the Guard should not conduct patrols.
"The governor doesn't favor militarization of the border, and it does not appear the president does," spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said.
In California, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said troops might provide short-term relief, but he does not believe border protection is an appropriate role for the National Guard. California has thousands of National Guard troops in Iraq and might need them to protect the state during earthquakes, floods and other emergencies, Schwarzenegger said.
"So if you have 6,000 in Iraq and send another 6,000 to the border, what do we have left?" Schwarzenegger asked.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, said he appreciates that the president is "finally paying attention" to the problems border states face, but he is skeptical the federal government can deliver on its promises.
"Those of us living along the border desperately need more law enforcement to protect our citizens from drug runners, smugglers and other lawlessness," he said.
Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he was gratified by the administration's realization that the Guard has a role to play along the border: "We have the ability to multitask."