National Guard troops now guarding Calif. border - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

National Guard troops now guarding Calif. border

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - The Obama Administration's push to strengthen our border with Mexico is in full swing Monday with the arrival of the National Guard in San Diego.

From California to Texas, the U.S. border with Mexico has a stronger security presence, with National Guard troops arriving and more on the way.

This is in response to the bill President Obama signed earlier this month providing $600 million in emergency border protection funding. When it's all done, there will be 1,500 national guardsmen at the border with our neighbors to the south.

Hundreds of National Guard troops are now along the San Diego sector of the U.S.-Mexico border acting as an additional visual deterrent to drug and human trafficking.

"(Troops) have been doing rollover training, they've been doing medical screening, background checks, weapons qualifications," California National Guard Major Kimberly Holman said.

All of the guardsmen have put their normal jobs on hold to serve in the border mission as part of President Obama's order to beef up border security.

"We are here to support Border Patrol and be a force multiplier for them and be extra eyes and ears to them, watching and reporting back any suspicious activities, any incursions that are about to occur, then the Border Patrol steps in and takes over the law enforcement at that time," Maj. Holman said.

They will be armed for self-defense but will call in Border Patrol agents if a situation becomes hostile. During the mission, which is set to end next July 1, the troops will not be just glued to the border for surveillance duty.

"If there's a corridor known for high smuggling of people and illegal narcotics… they're going to place them on those locations. And it's not necessarily on the border. It could be some place up in the hills not far from the border or up the coast," Maj. Holman said.

When word went out about the new mission in July, more than 3,000 people applied. Those who were accepted have been undergoing two to three weeks of training at Camp Roberts near San Luis Obispo.

"So you've got anybody who may have just come back from Iraq or Afghanistan or they could have just been working their post job or working down the street. You never know who's going to be working with you and what their background might be.

"It is not a mission without risk and we're taking that very much into account. The National Guard is always very safety-conscious and will be again this year," Maj. Holman said.

Of course, not everybody is thrilled with the new enforcement plan. Immigration rights activists say there is no reason to send the guard to the border. They say there are fewer illegal crossings and crime is lower in border cities such as San Diego.

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