FRANKFORT, Kentucky – Kentucky and North Carolina announced Friday they were sending 950 National Guard soldiers to assist security efforts along the U.S. border with Mexico.
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley said 300 troops had been deployed from his state Friday, and he urged fellow governors to follow his lead.
"Federal efforts to secure our borders do not just benefit the border states," the Democrat wrote in a letter to his colleagues. "These security measures affect our entire country."
Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, said the 650 Kentucky soldiers could be deployed by July under a memorandum of agreement with several other states. The troops are to perform support duties, rather than law enforcement, allowing federal authorities to focus on border security.
The move comes a month after President George W. Bush announced in May that he would ask states to provide up to 6,000 National Guard troops to help secure the border with Mexico. Bush did not nationalize the guard, so governors are free to assist or not.
As of Thursday, fewer than 1,000 troops were in place at the border, according to military officials in Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Bush's plan called for 2,500 troops to be on the border in support roles by June 30, and 6,000 by the end of July. The National Guard Bureau said Thursday that the goal would be met.