Matt York, Associated Press
A National Guardsman welds a section of the fence being built at the border in May 2007.

WASHINGTON — As the expiration date of National Guard units assisting with border patrol duties gets closer, Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, wants answers from the Homeland Security Department on the status of the border fence between the United States and Mexico.

Since 2006, Operation Jumpstart has put 6,000 National Guard members on the country's southern border to help Border Patrol agents with surveillance, transportation and building and repairing the border fence. But by July, the program will expire and the members of the Guard will be pulled out.

Cannon sent a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff saying that he has "serious concerns about the decision to remove the National Guard from the border."

"The only reason I can see to remove the guard from the border is if new agents are in place and the physical barrier, or fence, has been completed," Cannon wrote.

He asked Chertoff for details on the fence's progress, such as how much has been completed, what is the time frame for completion and is there enough done to justify removing the Guard?

He also wants to know the status of a way for the department to show the fence's progress online so Americans can see the building progress of "the border fence they are paying for."

Cannon urged Chertoff to make a case to President Bush that the Guard members should stay at the border. Homeland Security did not respond to requests for a comment Thursday.


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