* Republicans had sought more border support
* Spending tied to immigration reform push?
* Mexico wants US to stop cash and weapons heading south
(Adds comment from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, background)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, May 25 President Barack Obama will
seek $500 million for security and send up to 1,200 National
Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border, an administration
official said on Tuesday, after demands from both Republicans
and Democrats for more federal resources along the frontier.
The announcement comes as the Democratic president seeks
Republican support for a sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration
laws, and seeks to rally opposition to a tough new immigration
law in Arizona that has caused tension in U.S. relations with
Mexico, without seeming soft on illegal border crossings.
The troops will provide intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance support, intelligence analysis, immediate
support to counternarcotics enforcement and training capacity
until the Customs and Border Patrol agency can recruit and
train more border officers and agents, the official said.
The funds will be used to enhance technology at the border
and share information and support between law enforcement
agencies as they target illegal trafficking in people, drugs,
weapons and money.
Illegal immigration across the border with Mexico has been
in intense focus since Arizona last month passed the law to
drive 460,000 illegal immigrants out of the desert state, which
straddles one of the principal corridors for human and drug
smugglers heading up from Mexico.
The law requires state and local police to investigate the
immigration status of people they reasonably suspect are in the
It was a central issue last week during a state visit to
Washington by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who said the
law discriminated against foreign-born workers.
Mexican officials said on Tuesday they respected Obama's
right to make the decision, but thought Washington should
address problems originating on its side of the border.
"The Mexican government considers that the decision ...
should translate into the channeling of additional resources to
make efforts more effective to combat the trafficking of
illegal arms and cash to Mexico," the Mexican foreign ministry
said in a statement.
Mexico also urged "shared responsibility" on the fight
against drug gangs along the border.
SPARRING WITH REPUBLICANS
Arizona's two U.S. senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, and
Governor Jan Brewer, all Republicans, have asked Obama for more
federal support to secure the border.
In a statement on Tuesday, Brewer said she was "pleased and
grateful that at long last there has been a partial response
from the Obama Administration" to her demands that "Washington
do its job."
Brewer added that she was "anxious" to hear additional
details setting out where, how, and for how long additional
forces would be deployed.
There are currently 344 U.S. National Guard troops working
along the border.
U.S. officials are also concerned drug-related violence
will cross the border from Mexico, where some 23,000 people
have been killed since Calderon took office in late 2006 as
drug gangs fight turf wars and battle federal agents.
A prominent cattleman, Robert Krentz, was shot dead on his
ranch in southeast Arizona in late March. Police followed
tracks from the scene of the shooting to the Mexican border,
but made no arrests.
Cochise County sheriff Larry Dever, whose office is
investigating Krentz's death, said he doubted that many troops
would make much difference, given the border's nearly
2,000-mile (3200-km) length.
"If you put 1,200 in perspective ... that's about one
every 2 miles ... so we're woefully short of doing anything
significant, unless they are all deployed in a very specific
area," he told Reuters.
Obama met on Tuesday with Senate Republicans, none of whom
has come out in support of his immigration plan. He pushed them
to support an overhaul, which he said he wants passed this
year, but did not bring up the National Guard plan.
Kyl said it was not a good idea for Democrats to "try to
hold hostage the security of the border in order to get
comprehensive immigration reform passed."
McCain said Obama's plan fell short. The Arizona senator,
who is in a tough re-election fight in November, said he wants
6,000 National Guard troops sent to border areas.
Republican senators offered an amendment to a spending bill
on Tuesday seeking $2 billion for border security.
(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix, Steve Holland
and Tom Ferraro in Washington and Miguel Angel Gutierrez in
Mexico City, editing by Todd Eastham and Cynthia Osterman)