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Obama to send 1,200 National Guardsmen to U.S.-Mexico border

The Obama administration will send 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and request an additional $500 million from Congress in an effort to stop illegal immigration and narcotics smuggling, an Arizona lawmaker announced on Tuesday.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose district borders Mexico, said in a statement that the White House had responded to her “repeated requests” for additional border security after the March 27 murder of a rancher along the Mexican border.

“The White House is doing the right thing,” Giffords said. “Arizonans know that more boots on the ground means a safer and more secure border. Washington heard our message.”

An administration official confirmed the plan to the Associated Press, and said the reinforcements would focus on “surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence and blocking drug trafficking.”

The announcement came as Republican congressional leaders were themselves preparing to push for increased funding for border security. Lawmakers from both parties have renewed their focus on illegal immigration after Arizona passed a bill empowering local law enforcement to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

The deal also comes less than a week after Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited the U.S. for the second official State Dinner of the Obama administration and addressed lawmakers in a joint session of Congress. His government has been mired in a bloody and protracted conflict with powerful drug cartels that has left thousands dead and done little to stop the illegal trafficking of guns and narcotics across the U.S.-Mexico border.

As Need to Know has reported, the violence has already spilled over into El Paso, Texas, which sits just across the border from Juarez, Mexico, the epicenter of the drug war. In his address last week, Calderon tried to convince lawmakers that the drug war was, in fact, a joint U.S.-Mexico problem.