Obama administration reducing Guard troops on Mexico border

The Guard’s strategy on the border will shift from on-the-ground patrolling to providing more high-tech, mobile aerial surveillance with military helicopters, a Pentagon spokesman said. Border officials will determine in the coming weeks which areas of the border the remaining troops will focus on.

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Reaction in Congress was split along party lines. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), said troops should remain until Border Patrol agents have control of a majority of the border.

If the Obama administration’s goal is border security, their actions undermine their objective, Smith said. The administration’s decision to draw down the National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexico border makes an already porous border worse.

But Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) lauded the decision to shrink the Guard’s border presence.

While I appreciate the service of our National Guard forces, requiring them to engage in border law enforcement activity is not cost effective, Reyes said.

The U.S.-Mexico border has been a frequent topic of the Republican presidential debates, where the candidates have attacked both President Obama and one another over the best way to secure the border.

Obama sent the 1,200 Guard troops to the Mexican border in May 2010 to provide surveillance and help stop drug trafficking. In September, Obama extended the stay of the Guard troops by 90 days, through the end of the year.

The number of Guard troops is dropping as the size of the Border Patrol grows to a record level, the two departments said Tuesday. They noted that Border Patrol arrests, an indication of the level of illegal immigration, decreased in fiscal year 2011 to 340,000, a 53 percent drop since 2008.