Seventeen members of the House of Representatives, including two Democrats, have sent a letter (PDF) to President Obama asking him to deploy National Guard troops to the Southern border to stem violence there.
"Without swift and decisive action, it is our fear that this violence will only increase in severity and scope," they write. "...We ask that any National Guard troops that are deployed should be provided with very clear guidance of proper rules of engagement and should be armed and allowed to defend themselves if fired upon or attacked."
The letter points to incidents of violence in both Mexico and the United States, including the murder of an Arizona rancher, to support the case that troops are needed. The situation "represents a serious threat to the national security of the United States as well as a serious threat to U.S. citizens," it says.
Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas was the main force behind the letter. Signatories are largely Republican but include Democratic Reps. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona and Harry Teague of New Mexico.
In 2006, then-President George W. Bush ordered that up to 6,000 National Guard troops be temporarily deployed to the border as part of his comprehensive immigration reform push. Media outlets reported that less than 1,000 guard troops were ultimately deployed, though the Bush administration insisted that it had sent more than 2,500.
In March of last year, President Obama elected not to deploy troops to the border, though he left open the possibility of doing so.
"We're going to examine whether and if National Guard deployments would make sense and under what circumstances they would make sense," he told The Dallas Morning News. "I don't have a particular tipping point in mind. I think it's unacceptable if you've got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing U.S. citizens."
Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl and Texas Governor Rick Perry, also a Republican, are among the lawmakers who have called on the president to deploy troops, separate from this letter.
The letter comes amid a push for a federal plan on immigration following the passage of Arizona's controversial and strict new immigration law, which will requires immigrants to carry documents verifying their immigration status if and when it goes into effect in July. It would also require police officers to question a person about his or her immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that person may be illegally in the country.