Minnesota National Guard to Head South to Help Patrol U.S.-Mexico Border

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Members of the Minnesota National Guard will head to New Mexico beginning this month as part of a federal effort to beef up security along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito announced Wednesday the deployment of up to 200 members. The announcement comes nearly two months after President Bush asked states to commit soldiers to a mission designed to slow the tide of illegal immigration across America's southern border.

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Minnesota's contingent will be comprised of Guard members who volunteer or those due for regular training missions. The rotation will be for six months. The governor can recall them at any time, including for deployments to Iraq.

The goal is for Guard members to free up U.S. border agents for enforcement activities until more are hired and trained. The costs of the deployment will fall to the federal government.

Minnesota's National Guard has about 13,000 members. Fewer than 3,000 are currently deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

States have been slow to offer troops in response to Bush's call. He originally set a goal of putting 2,500 Guard members on the border by the beginning of this month, but the administration was struggling to meet it.