PHOENIX - The Arizona National Guard will soon be heading down to the southern border. Governor Katie Hobbs signed an executive order on December 15, as the Lukeville Port of Entry remains closed.
National Guard leaders say Friday was a marathon of meetings, ironing out the details of this mobilization.
"One week after her letter to President Biden asking him to reassign the Arizona National Guard to re-open the Lukeville Port of Entry, Governor Katie Hobbs signed an Executive Order to carry out the next step in Operation SECURE, mobilizing the National Guard to southern Arizona," read a news release from the governor's office. "There, they will assist the Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies with enforcement activities, including fentanyl interdiction, analytical support, and human trafficking enforcement efforts."
"Specifically, we will be assisting the Department of Public Safety," said Captain Erin Hannigan.
Hannigan emphasizes that this is a support role. At no point, she says, will they be law enforcement.
"There’s a lot that goes on with law enforcement. There’s a lot of tasks that they need to complete in an administrative role, and stepping into do that for them so that they can be on the streets, that they can be doing that active role is really what we are trying to do."
The executive order comes a full week after the governor wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, blaming the federal government for a lack of support on the border, and criticizing its move to close down the Lukeville Port of Entry.
Federal officials claimed the move was necessary, citing an urgent need to reassign personnel to assist with the unprecedented number of migrant crossings. But the closure of the busy port, known as the easiest route to tourism hot spot Rocky Point, sparked outrage across party lines.
To work towards re-opening it, the governor cited the federal government's decline to do so, and officially mobilized the guard.
Guardsmen will be assigned to multiple areas, including Lukeville and the San Miguel Crossing. There, members will be providing analytical support for DPS and local law enforcement agencies.
"At this point, we are working to see what roles need to be filled, and how we can best fill them," said Hannigan.
Hannigan says the number of guardsmen needed is unknown, but they should know more in the days ahead.
'All we need to do is enforce the laws'
Is the former head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection concerned if some bad people are coming in with the flood of thousands?
"About one in five is a criminal, and we still have the sleepers that are coming across from the Middle East that only intend to do harm to America," said Ron Colburn, former deputy chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
He worked 31 years for the border patrol and was the deputy chief before retiring in 2009.
He lives here in the Valley.
In 2006, then-president George W. Bush initiated Operation Jump Start, sending 6,000 U.S. National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border in four states, including Arizona, to deter illegal immigration.
Colburn was there.
What does he think of Governor Katie Hobbs' executive order sending 2,500 Arizona National Guard members to support law enforcement at the border?
"It's not enough. It's a nice start. It's … we'll see how effective it is. In talking to the border patrol, they aren't enjoying the same kind of benefits that they did back in the Jump Start days, but they're hoping this might help," he said.
Colburn acknowledges how complex the problem at the border has grown to be, but he says the solution is a basic one.
"Congress passed laws that said, ‘You will report will report to a designated port of entry and ask for permission to enter.’ They never said, ‘If you snake in, we're going to reward you with social benefits and a free pass,’ but that's what's happening.' All we need to do is enforce the laws. It's that simple," he said.