Border agents to thin

National Guard troops sent to assist Border Patrol will leave around June. About 3,000 more agents are needed as replacements.

February 29, 2008|By Brianna Bailey

IMPERIAL BEACH BORDER PATROL STATION — California National Guard troops man a darkened room filled with flat-screen computer monitors that looks like the control room of a television studio.

The screens, part of a high-tech remote imaging system, monitor miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. It takes little more than a minute for troops to spot potential fence jumpers and notify Border Patrol agents, who speed to the exact spot in their green-and-white SUVs.

California National Troops have manned the station for nearly two years, but their mission at the border will end July 1 when its federal funding runs out, leaving the Border Patrol understaffed.


Assemblyman Van Tran toured the Guard’s Border Patrol operations Thursday and was dismayed to find the Border Patrol will need about 3,000 more agents to replace the National Guard troops who will begin leaving in June.

“What will you do when the National Guard’s mission here is over?” Tran asked during his tour of the remote imaging center at the Border Patrol station Thursday.

“Good question,” answered Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Gregg Bruce, who has worked at the Imperial Beach station since 2006. “We’ll have to pull agents from the line to man the cameras, and I’m sure we’re going to be short every day.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger authorized the deployment of California National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in June 2006 after President Bush asked governors across the region to deploy troops to beef up border security and aid U.S. border agents as part of Operation Jump Start.

About 6,000 National Guard troops deployed the first year of the operation across the Southwestern border of the United States — 1,200 in California alone. National Guard troops were supposed to slowly be replaced by civilian Border Patrol agents. Today there are about 3,000 troops assisting in Border Patrol operations with Operation Jump Start, a little more than 600 in California.

The troops are “the eyes and ears” of the Border Patrol, said Master Sgt. Michael Drake of the California Air National Guard, assisting in security operations and repairing and improving fencing and roads along the border.

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