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Obama Plans Strengthened National Guard Presence on US-Mexico Border

President Barack Obama, 24 May 2010
President Barack Obama, 24 May 2010

President Obama is reported to be preparing steps to bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border, including sending National Guard troops to the area. The president traveled to Capitol Hill Tuesday where border security and immigration were key topics in a discussion with minority Senate Republicans about his agenda for the remainder of this year.

Under the plan widely reported first late on Tuesday and quoting un-named administration officials, as many as 1,200 additional National Guard troops could be deployed to the border.

Former President George W. Bush sent thousands of National Guard to the border to help federal immigration agents burdened by illegal immigration, an operation that lasted until 2008.

The development comes just a week after President Obama committed to Mexican President Felipe Calderon, during his state visit to Washington, to do more to bolster security as both nations combat illegal drug trafficking gangs.

In addition to deployment of National Guard troops, the administration would request $500 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border security.

The president's visit to Capitol Hill was aimed at winning some opposition Republican support for his hope to make progress on comprehensive immigration reform this year.

Republicans made no commitments and asserted that 1,200 troops would be insufficient to do the job on the border.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona was reported to have told the president that the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured before Republicans would will support a White House immigration reform plan.

"It is simply not enough," said Senator McCain. "We need 6,000. We need 3,000 across the border and an additional 3,000 National Guard troops to the Arizona-Mexico border."

Senator Jon Kyl is a Republican from Arizona:

"It's important to secure the border simply because of all of the reasons why that is important, and that ironically securing the border will make it easier not more difficult to later on get comprehensive immigration reform," said Senator Kyl.

Republicans in the House of Representatives issued statements calling for thousands more National Guard troops to be sent to the border, and there have been similar calls from House Democrats.

In a brief remark to reporters after his visit to the Capitol, President Obama said he had good, frank discussions with Senate Republicans on a range of issues.

Amid reports of some tense exchanges , the White House issued a statement saying the president urged Republicans to work with him across party lines to make progress on the immigration issue.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to California, where the president is attending Democratic party fund raising events, that talks with Republicans were civil in tone.

President Obama has said repeatedly that he would need Republican support to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.