Gradual deployment of US troops to Mexico border underway

WESLACO, Texas (AP) — The deployment of National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border at President Donald Trump's request was underway today with a gradual ramp-up of troops under orders to help curb illegal immigration.

The Trump administration also said Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will visit this week a stretch of new border wall breaking ground in New Mexico, putting additional focus on what Trump has called a crisis of migrant crossings and crime.

The construction and commitment of at least 1,600 Guard members from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas provoked fresh condemnation from immigrant activists and praise from border-state Republican governors, who will retain command-and-control of their state's Guard during a mission that for now has no firm end date.

The only holdout border state was California, led by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not announced whether troops from his state's National Guard will participate and has repeatedly clashed with Trump over immigration policy.

In Texas, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to put more than 1,000 Guard members into action, military officials said today 300 troops would report to armories this week for preparation and training. Texas has previously kept about 100 Guard members stationed on the border for years as part of its own border security efforts.

"What is different now it is happening in a different context and a different narrative," said Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, an immigrant advocacy group.

Speaking from the Rio Grande Valley where immigrant crossings are the highest along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, Garcia said, "When you hear the narrative of the president, it seems to him the enemy is the immigrant family."

Abbott said in a statement the Guard has "proven to have a meaningful impact" in reducing immigration and crime.

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