California Governor Renews Move of ‘Up to’ 400 National Guard to Border, Coast, Interior

National Guard Border
Caitlin O'Hara/AFP
Washington, DC

Hundreds of additional National Guard troops being sent by the Trump administration may finally make it to the U.S. southern border in California after fierce negotiations between California officials and their federal counterparts.

Brown’s new declaration may not, however, meet the standard set by the federal government as President Donald Trump threatened Thursday that the federal government would not pay for the new troops under Brown’s rules.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced on April 4 that the Trump administration would send the National Guard to the four U.S. southern border states in conjunction with border state governors. President Donald Trump then set the projected troop deployment level at 2,000 to 4,000.

Sec. Nielsen said that Guard troops at the border would be engaging in activities such as countering criminal activity, aerial support, and some infrastructure construction where able.

Governors of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona accepted Guard troops to the southern border shortly thereafter and, as of early this week, there were approximately 900 Guard troops deployed between the three states.

It wasn’t until late last week that California Gov. Jerry Brown answered persistant public questions as to whether his state would be the fourth and final border state to accept troops. In a letter dated April 11, Brown addressed Sec. Nielsen and Defense Secretary James Mattis and accepted approximately 400 National Guard troops under some specific parameters. Brown’s office was adamant that they would not necessarily send those troops to the southern border. This stood in contrast to federal officials’ declaration that troops were being sent to the southern border.

By the following Monday, news reports indicated that the California National Guard had refused to deploy troops for the activities that federal officials were requesting them to do. The activities did not include any immigration law enforcement, but rather to serve in support roles.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Department of Defense, and National Guard officials held a joint press conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday during which CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Ron Vitiello stated that California had been specifically notified that troops being offered were to go to the El Centro and San Diego sectors of the southern border. 

Vitiello confirmed that at the time that California had declined to allow troops to participate in activities specifically requested by CBP, but expressed hope that ongoing discussions with the state’s officials would lead the state to participate in future iterations of the National Guard border security operation. 

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and Robert Salesses told reporters in the briefing that the activities that Border Patrol had requested National Guard troops to participate in included only non-law enforcement activities, “motor transport maintenance, radio communications, heavy equipment operations, some planning administrative, clerical kinds of responsibilities, and then operating some surveillance camera operators.”

On Wednesday, Brown issued a new declaration that California would deploy the approximately 400 National Guard troops at the expense of the federal government. The governor qualified the declaration by specifying that troops would be positioned not only at the border but also along the California coast and in the interior of the state.  

Brown’s Thursday declaration compared the current deployment to those initiated in 2006 under President George Bush and in 2010 under President Barack Obama. He suggested that the new troops would be joining troops already in place in the state to combat transnational criminal activity.

Brown’s declaration moved President Trump to declare that troops to California would not be federally funded under Brown’s rules: “Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy ‘up to 400 National Guard Troops’ to do nothing. The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!”

The White House did not immediately return a request for clarification as to whether the federal government was refusing to fund National Guard troops to California if Brown refused to allow the troops to perform the non-enforcement support activities that federal officials have requested.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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