Patrolling the U.S. border: When does the National Guard step in?
California Gov. Jerry Brown has agreed to President Donald Trump's request to put additional National Guard troops on the border with Mexico, though he will limit their involvement with immigration enforcement efforts.
Brown, the fourth-term Democrat, announced Wednesday that he would accept federal funding to add 400 California National Guard members to statewide operations on drug smuggling, human trafficking and other organized crime through Sept. 30.
"But let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission," Brown wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary James Mattis. "This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws."
Trump last week asked the governors of four southwestern states to deploy the National Guard as part of a plan to secure the U.S.-Mexico border against gang activity and illegal immigration. He later told reporters that he wanted up to 4,000 troops on the border, "until such time as we get the wall."
While Texas, Arizona and New Mexico responded enthusiastically, California officials, who have clashed routinely with the Republican federal administration over the past year on issues ranging from environmental regulations to the state's "sanctuary" policies, largely stayed silent.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that the Trump administration was "glad to see California Gov. Jerry Brown work with the administration and send members of the national guard to help secure the southern border."
The deployment will nearly triple the size of the California National Guard's transnational crime program, which currently has 250 members, including 55 at the border.
The National Guard is not yet disclosing which units will be called up. Where the additional personnel are located "will be dictated by the needs on the ground," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email.
In agreeing to Trump's request, Brown nevertheless rejected the president's assertions that there is a crisis of surging illegal immigration along the country's southern border. Brown noted in his letter that "immigrant apprehensions on the border last year were as low as they’ve been in nearly 50 years."
"I agree with the Catholic Bishops who have said that local, state and federal officials should 'work collaboratively and prudently in the implementation of this deployment, ensuring that the presence of the National Guard is measured and not disruptive to community life,'" Brown wrote.