Douglas supports plan to deploy Guard troops to border

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he supports President Bush’s plan to deploy National Guard troops along the Mexican border to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants in the United States.

Douglas says it’s unlikely that Vermont Guard members will be given this assignment in the early months of the plan.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Under the President’s plan, roughly 6000 Guard members would patrol the Mexican border for a two week tour of duty. This means that approximately 156,000 Guard soldiers would be activated for this service in the course of a year.

Initially the Guard units will come from states that border Mexico: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. But it’s possible that additional units from other states will be called up for service.

Douglas says he supports the president’s plan.

(Douglas) “Well if the President feels the need for deployment on a temporary basis, that’s his prerogative as Commander in Chief. There’s a lot of concern in the United States about the security of our borders, about the illegal immigration and he feels this is an appropriate response. I think he understands that this will be temporary. It needs to be temporary until such time as the border patrol has the resources it needs to do the job right, but on a short term immediate basis and the National Guard is there to serve.”

(Kinzel) Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie says patrolling the Mexican border is an appropriate mission for the National Guard. Dubie says he hasn’t received any request for Vermont troops to join this effort at this time.

(Dubie) “Well, I think the President’s request for assistance from the National Guard is something that we stand ready to answer the call. And whether that call is to respond to a flood here in Vermont or to send troops in the global war on terror or to help out someplace else in the country it’s really what we’re here for.”

(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy who co chairs the U.S. Senate’s National Guard caucus says he supports the president’s plan as long as it’s a short term measure.

(Leahy) “Ultimately though the president’s going to have to realize this is a national problem requires a federal solution, which means more border patrol officers. In the short term I don’t think the Guard will question going. They will go so long as they’re under the authority of the governors.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he’ll support the president’s call to add several thousand border patrol agents in the next few years.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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