Arizona's governor has signed an executive order to expand the state National Guard's presence at the border with Mexico to combat illegal immigration and related crime.
Governor Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that the guard troops will provide a support role to law enforcement and not militarize the border. In the governor's words, "We are not at war with Mexico."
Arizona already has 170 National Guard soldiers at the border assisting federal and state officers with anti-drug and other efforts.
Last August, Napolitano and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson declared states of emergency along their border with Mexico. Both accused the U.S. federal government of not doing enough to control drug traffickers, illegal immigrant smugglers, and criminal gangs.
Napolitano's latest order comes as the U.S. Senate debates controversial reform of immigration laws and measures to strengthen border security.
On Tuesday, thousands of mostly Latin American protesters rallied at the U.S. Capitol to oppose the legislation, which would define millions of undocumented people as felons and punish anyone helping them.
They want the Senate to defeat the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, which the House of Representatives has already passed. President Bush has said he will sign the bill if passed by the Senate.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.