National Guard headed for Valley

February 27, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The 266 National Guard troops that will be deployed to Southern California's six ports of entry in mid-March will help reduce wait times for border-crossers, according to Michael Freeman, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ports director for the Imperial Valley.

While the exact number of troops that will be deployed to each of the ports has yet to be determined, Freeman said Calexico's two ports and the Andrade Port of Entry will receive a "good number of them."

The unarmed troopers will help reduce wait times by assisting INS inspectors.

"For example, when you walk into the U.S. and pass through the magnetometer, the National Guard troops might search your bags. Right now I have inspectors doing that. With the presence of the troops I would be able to use those inspectors to open up processing lanes to reduce vehicle or pedestrian wait times," Freeman said.

The troopers also will help maintain crowd control, assist with secondary inspections and guard the Calexico East and Andrade ports after closing hours.


The guardsmen will be detailed to the INS, Freeman said. That means wherever a trooper is stationed the soldier will be under the direct supervision of an INS officer and not under their own detail.

As for the limit of their duties, "They are not to be put in harm's way. They will be not be provided tasks that require lethal or non-lethal force," Freeman said.

Asked if their presence is cosmetic, Freeman said, "We see it as they will allow us to free up inspectors to help reduce wait times."

Pentagon officials said more than 1,600 troops are being sent at the request of the INS, Border Patrol and Customs Service, which have stepped up security along 7,500 miles of border in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. The officials emphasized that the assistance is a temporary measure, most likely six months, to give the agencies time to hire more employees and install new technology, according to a Washington Post report.

Freeman said the U.S. Customs Service will receive its own smaller allotment of troops.

As for the Border Patrol, Freeman said, "The Department of Defense will mobilize, train and deploy personnel to assist the Border Patrol through such activities as terrain and trend analysis and focusing its deployment on resources in areas of serious threats to achieve the greatest impact."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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