New Mexico to lose border guard unit

Federal funding will run out by end of month

Updated: Thursday, 06 Jan 2011, 10:58 PM MST
Published : Thursday, 06 Jan 2011, 10:58 PM MST

Jim Winchester

SANTA FE (KRQE) - About 100 members of New Mexico's National Guard who patrol on the U.S.-Mexico border could soon be out of a job.

Federal funding for the New Mexico Counterdrug Task Force will run out before the end of the month, according to the New Mexico National Guard.

The task force was formed through funds secured by Senator Jeff Bingaman through federal earmarks several years ago. In over 5 years of existance, the task force has received more than $16 million in earmarks. An additional $6 million was secured by both of New Mexico's U.S. Senators for 2011. However, the earmark bill was killed during the lame duck session of Congress.

The task force consisted of an average of 140 guard members per year. The unit assists Border Patrol agents in surveillance, searching suspicious vehicles for drugs, and constructing barriers along the border.

Border enforcement agents are disappointed in the upcoming loss of the task force.

"It will make us more vunerable," New Mexico High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Regional Director Ernesto Ortiz said. "We are already at position where we have a difficult time stopping the trafficking of drugs and human beings into the state."

Aides to Governor Susana Martinez tell News 13 that the governor is "concerned" about the loss of funds and is looking into potential solutions.