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New Mexico Guardsmen set to serve in border wall operation


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As work along a 20-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border begins in southern New Mexico to replace existing vehicle barriers with a new bollard wall, about 250 members of the New Mexico National Guard are expected to serve in the operation.

According to the office of New Mexico’s governor, the identified personnel in the border operation will not affect local law enforcement.

“The safety of all New Mexicans is our first and foremost concern, which is why our soldiers will participate in this operation,” Governor Susana Martinez’s office said in a statement. “Later this week over 80 New Mexico Guard Soldiers will report to serve in a support role for the U.S. Border Patrol in this operation. Over this last weekend, leaders with the New Mexico National Guard met with federal officials to discuss resources and work on plans. These soldiers represent the first of what is expected to be 250 serving in the New Mexico border operation.

“We are proud of our soldiers and the work they continually do in order to keep New Mexico safe.”

Soldiers serving in this operation will require training and background checks and are expected to report late this week, the governor’s office said.

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“The administration will continue to work with the federal government to identify roles for soldiers and compensation to the state,” Martinez said.

On Monday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials gathered to mark the groundbreaking of the $73 million project at Santa Teresa near New Mexico’s state line with Texas.

Officers in the area are responsible for a sprawling desert territory that spans a portion of West Texas and all of New Mexico. They say the area remains an active route for illegal crossings and drug trafficking and that the existing barriers aren’t meeting their needs.

During the last fiscal year, agents stopped more than 25,000 immigrants suspected of trying to enter the country illegally and seized more than 34,000 pounds of marijuana and 140 pounds of cocaine, officials said.

Multimedia-Crime Reporter Trevier Gonzalez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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