US Military Guard 20 Miles Of New Mexico Border

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COLUMBUS, N.M. - The U.S. Border Patrol is getting help from the U.S. Army to slow illegal immigration along New Mexico’s southern border.

Armored vehicles from a reconnaissance squadron based in Fort Lewis, Wash., were stationed along a 20-mile stretch of N.M. 9 between Columbus and Playas on Thursday, watching for immigrants.

Some of the vehicles with the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment were equipped with mounted machine guns and long-range surveillance equipment.

Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier said the surveillance mission isn’t unusual and was planned last year.

“These military resources provide more eyes and ears as force multipliers to help us with our mission,” Mosier said.

The operation is the latest in a series of steps to tighten security between Deming and Lordsburg, the busiest route in New Mexico for illegal immigrants and smugglers. Other steps include the addition of more Border Patrol agents and the temporary assignment of state police officers to the Columbus area.

Members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps have also been watching the Hatchita area this month.

“We’re happy to see them,” Minuteman spokesman Gary Cole said of the Army troops. “We hope they’re here for a long time.”

As members of the National Guard and active duty military units have done in the past, the troops provide surveillance of illegal immigrants for Border Patrol agents.

Lt. Andrew Kennedy considers the mission training for the troops. He added that it frees up Border Patrol assets.

Citing security and safety concerns, Mosier declined to disclose the number of troops involved and how long the mission would last.

The operation was arranged by Joint Task Force North, a Fort Bliss, Texas-based group that coordinates military homeland security support for law enforcement agencies.

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