Michael J. Sorba, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/27/2010 06:05:49 PM PDT

About two dozen troops from a San Bernardino-based unit will be among the roughly 260 California National Guardsmen helping secure the border with Mexico.

National Guard forces at the border are expected to be at full strength by Wednesday, said Major Kim Holman, public affairs officer for the border mission.

They will remain there until July 1, 2011, to act as a visual deterrent to drug and human trafficking, she said.

“Hopefully, the guys that are doing something illegal will think twice when they see that the National Guard is standing there,” Holman said.

All California Guardsmen headed to the border are reservists who volunteered to put their normal jobs on hold and serve in the border mission, Holman said. There were more than 2,000 applicants who wanted to take part in the mission, she said.

“I think everybody heard through the grape vine what a great mission it was so I think they wanted to have their chance,” Holman said. “You’re supporting a homeland security mission on American soil.”

The move to step up security at the border has been praised as a good start by those who support a tougher line on illegal immigration.

But critics worry that – without comprehensive immigration reform – adding troops to the border is simply a “band aid.”

“We just don’t think more troops, more resources is going to stop the flow of people coming into this country without documents,” said Emilio Amaya, executive director of San Bernardino Community Services Center, a nonprofit providing legal and social services to immigrants.

Despite America’s economic downturn, Latin Americans and Mexicans living in poverty can still find better work in the U.S., Amaya said.

He’d like to see the U.S. push for better wages and benefits for workers in those countries through changes in accords such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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