Mexicans dismiss U.S. plans to send National Guard troops to the border as another futile effort that will just fuel an already booming drug- and migrant-smuggling industry.
But with caravans of heavily armed Mexican soldiers racing around this violent border city trying to regain control from feuding drug traffickers some worry that the buildup of U.S. troops could lead to confrontations in an area where it is often difficult to tell where Mexico ends and the U.S. begins.
Tensions in both countries have been rising over increased border-area violence spawned by drug battles, a booming human-smuggling industry and recent border scuffles.
While Mexico has stepped up efforts at combating drug, weapons and people smugglers, it leaves its migrants alone; its citizens have the right to walk up to the border, and once they cross they are out of Mexican territory.
In January, Texas authorities hunting drug traffickers came across heavily armed men dressed in Mexican military garb and chased them back across the border. The Mexican government said the men were drug smugglers disguised as soldiers.
But U.S. officials say there have been less suspicious incursions. In many areas, the border isn't clearly marked, especially in remote stretches of desert from New Mexico to California where many migrants cross, reports AP.
According to Reuters, deploying National Guard forces to help secure the U.S. southern border will not harm the part-time force but will enhance its training for other missions, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday.
Appearing before a Senate subcommittee, Rumsfeld defended President George W. Bush's plan to use some 6,000 National Guard troops to support border patrol agents even as the force is strained by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld contended that the use of 2 percent of Guard forces to help slow the stream of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexican border will "not adversely affect America's ability to conduct the war on terror or respond to other domestic emergencies."
"It seems to me that it will not in any way degrade or damage the National Guard's capabilities," Rumsfeld said.
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