California is “pretty close” to an agreement with the Trump administration to send between 200 and 400 of the state’s national guard troops to its border with Mexico, Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday.
Brown sought to play down any disagreements between the state and Trump officials over the deployment, which the president requested last week. Minutes before Brown’s remarks at the National Press Club, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Looks like Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security along their very porous Border. He cannot come to terms for the National Guard to patrol and protect the Border.”
“Well, wait a minute,” Brown said when asked about the Tweet. “Trying to stop drug smuggling, human trafficking and guns going to Mexico, to the cartels, that sounds to me like fighting crime. Trying to catch some desperate mothers and children or unaccompanied minors coming from Central America, that sounds like something else.”
“We want to be cooperative,” the governor quickly added. “There’s been a little bit of back and forth, as you always get with bureaucrats, but I think we can find common understanding here.”
The California governor sent a letter to the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security on April 11 agreeing to the deployment, while setting strict parameters for the guard troops’ activities. The California National Guard will “accept federal funding to add approximately 400 Guard members statewide to supplement the staffing of its ongoing program to combat transnational crime,” Brown said in the letter. But he stipulated that they “will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”
In his remarks at the Press Club, Brown noted that the state already has guard troops dedicated to combating transnational crime and drug smuggling. “It is a very logical next step to add a couple hundred more or more than that,” he said. “There’s a lot to do. I outlined it in my letter and I think we’re pretty close to an agreement.”
Three other border states – Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – are also in discussions with the Trump administration to deploy their National Guard divisions to the border with Mexico. A senior U.S. Customs and Border Patrol official told the Associated Press on Monday that California has refused to accept the terms for the troop rollout that the three other states had agreed to. Brown’s office, via the California National Guard, said the article was “inaccurate.”
“State officials have not rejected anything since the Governor responded to the federal government last Wednesday with the proposed ‘Memorandum of Agreement between the State of California and The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security,’” Lt. Col. Tom Keegan of the California National Guard said in a statement.
Brown acknowledged on Wednesday that “there is a difference” between what the other border states – which all have Republican governors – have accepted and what California is prepared to agree to when it comes to the guard’s role. They “have a political affiliation that I don’t share but I am concerned about our borders, I’m concerned about the shipment of drugs, not only overland but on the shores of CA, and human trafficking, and I’m concerned about the guns that are going south.”
“The guard is chomping at the bit, ready to go,” Brown added, “so I think we’ll get there.”