Arizona sends 338 troops to Mexico border, more heading soon

Posted: Updated:
Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Gov. Ducey speaks to Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix at they prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Gov. Ducey speaks to Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix at they prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Arizona National Guard troops in Phoenix prepare to deploy to the US-Mexico border on Monday, April 9. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday that 338 members of the state's National Guard were heading to the U.S.-Mexico border to support President Donald Trump's call for troops to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

More of the state's Guard members will be deployed on Tuesday, said Ducey, a Republican.

[RELATED: Arizona governor embraces Trump plan for Guard on border]

The governor cited a 200 percent surge in illegal border crossings last month to back up the need for more boots on the ground. 

"In many ways, our state has been the epicenter for the discussion around border security, Washington has ignored the border we finally have an administration that is paying attention to the border," Ducey said. 

However, border crossings along Arizona's border with Mexico have dropped by over 90 percent since 2000. 

Both Presidents Bush and Obama sent National Guard troops to the border during their administrations. 

A spokesman for the governor said the initial order is for a 31-day deployment. 

Those orders can be extended and governor described the mission as open-ended. 

The Arizona troops were being sent after Texas announced Friday it would send 250 National Guard members and helicopters took the first of them to the border.

Trump said last week he wants to send 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard members to the border.

[WATCH RAW VIDEO: Ducey speaks to National Guard ahead of border deployment]

[RELATED: What National Guard troops on the border can and can't do]

New Mexico's Republican governor has said her state would take part in the operation but no announcement has been made on deployment. California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has not said if the state's Guard members will participate.

Trump has said he wants to use the military at the border until progress is made on his proposed border wall, which has mostly stalled in Congress.

[RELATED: Arizona officials react to planned National Guard deployment to the border]

Defense Secretary James Mattis last Friday approved paying for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel from the Pentagon budget through the end of September.

A Defense Department memo said the National Guard members will not perform law enforcement functions or "interact with migrants or other persons detained" without Mattis's approval.

It said "arming will be limited to circumstances that might require self-defense" but did not further define that.

[RELATED: National Guard benefit at border tough to quantify]

[WATCH RAW VIDEO: Gov. Doug Ducey answers reporters' questions as National Guard preps for border deployment]

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol sector that includes part of West Texas and all of New Mexico said Monday he met with leaders of the New Mexico National Guard to begin discussions about what will be required and their capabilities.

El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Hull says those troops are nowhere near deploying yet.

The New Mexico Guard members could help with air support, surveillance and infrastructure repairs, Hull said.

[RELATED  Trump orders National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border]

Hull says the troops could help with air support, surveillance and repairs of infrastructure along the border.

Brown's spokesman, Evan Westrup, said Monday that California is still reviewing Trump's request for use of the state's National Guard members.

California National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Keegan said last week that any request will be "promptly reviewed to determine how best we can assist our federal partners."

After plunging at the start of Trump's presidency, the numbers of migrants apprehended at the southwest border have started to rise in line with historical trends.

[RELATED: Troops await orders for Trump border security deployment]

The Border Patrol said it caught around 50,000 people in March, more than three times the number in March 2017.

That's erased a decline for which Trump repeatedly took credit. Border apprehensions still remain well below the numbers when former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama deployed the Guard to the border.

© 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.