Monday, June 23, 2008

Border governors worried about drug war in Mexico as National Guard leaves border

The National Guardsmen are almost completely withdrawn from the Mexico border, despite pleas from border-state governors. When the Guard was first posted along the frontier in 2006, the governors were critical of the move.

Their worries have given way to fears that a bloody drug-cartel war in Mexico will spill into the U.S. and overwhelm the Border Patrol. The four border-state governors have tried in vain to persuade Congress and the White House to extend the Guard's presence. It will end as scheduled on July 15.

The Border Patrol says the Guard force bought it enough time to hire and train more agents. The patrol expressed confidence that it can now hold the line on its own. 'We're fine taking over. It's all part of our plan,' said Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd Easterling.

The Guardsmen used helicopters and night-vision gear to watch for people trying to slip across the border, then told Border Patrol agents where to find them. They also built roads and fences.

The Border Patrol's ranks have swelled by nearly 5,000 since the beginning of the Guard's presence, and now reach more than 16,400. It is still short of the 18,000-agent goal set for the end of the year.

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