President Obama is considering whether to grant emergency requests for National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border, as drug-related violence spirals out of control in the country's southern neighbor.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Obama has received "specific requests" for troops along the border, and the president acknowledged to a group of reporters the day before that he was weighing the option.
"The president has committed to reviewing those requests," Gibbs said. "I don't know from (the Department of Homeland Security) of a timeline of a recommendation or a decision on that, but I know that he will certainly take their (request) under advisement."
He warned, though, that "militarization of the border" will not resolve any problems, echoing the president's statements on the issue.
The comments come after Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an urgent call fort 1,000 more "boots on the ground" to deal with the growing violence. The president weighed the option during a meeting Wednesday afternoon with some reporters.
"We're going to examine whether and if National Guard deployments would make sense and under what circumstances they would make sense," Obama said, according to an account by McClatchy Newspapers. "I don't have a particular tipping point in mind. ... I think it's unacceptable if you've got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing U.S. citizens."
More than 1,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-related violence this year, and some officials warn the violence is spilling into some U.S. cities, such as Atlanta, Phoenix and Birmingham, Ala.
Lawmakers have held a series of hearings on the violence on Capitol Hill in recent days, with one House panel holding a hearing Thursday on what the Homeland Security Department can do to secure the Southwest border and prevent Mexican drug cartel violence from spreading.
During the hearing, Homeland Security official Roger Rufe said that Mexican drug cartels are the biggest organized crime threat to the United States. Rufe said a department plan to respond to escalating violence on the southwest border includes-- as a last resort -- deploying military personnel and equipment to the region if homeland security agencies become overwhelmed.
He, too, warned of doing too much too fast. "We would take all resources short of DoD and National Guard troops before we reach that tipping point. ... We very much do not want to militarize our border."
Rufe said military forces would be called in only when homeland security and other government agencies are overwhelmed. He did not specify what circumstances would trigger a call for troops.
The Mexican government has deployed 700 extra federal police to Ciudad Juarez, a city bordering Texas where local police have been overwhelmed by drug violence. Earlier this month, 3,200 federal troops were sent to the city. Rufe said while the violence along the border in Mexico is appalling, violent crimes have not increased in U.S. border cities as a result. He said kidnappings are up, but violent crime is down.
The top Republican on the House of Representatives' appropriations committee criticized the Defense Department on Tuesday for not making the situation in Mexico as big a priority as Afghanistan.
Rep. Jerry Lewis, a Republican, said the situation in Mexico is far more important than Afghanistan at this point. "We need to raise this to a higher level," Lewis told The Associated Press.
Perry said late last month that he was asking the Department of Homeland Security for extra resources and troops.
"As along as they are boots on the ground that are properly trained to deal with the border region, I don't care whether they are military troops, or National Guard troops or whether they are customs agents," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.