Several US Governors Withhold Border Assistance Over Trump Immigration Policy
By Sylvia Longmire
Columnist, In Homeland Security
President Trump’s new policy of separating children from their immigrant parents who are being held for criminal prosecution is ruffling more than the general public’s feathers. Elected officials across the U.S. are finding ways to demonstrate their opposition to this policy through initiatives of their own.
Trump has implied that he will not change his administration’s current “zero tolerance” stance until Democrats support stronger border security measures. However, some governors are protesting by moving in the opposite direction.
On Monday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, told WHDH 7 News he is reversing a decision to send a Massachusetts National Guard helicopter and crew to the U.S.-Mexico border. He cited as his reason the Trump administration’s “inhumane” policy of separating children from their parents. “It’s cruel and inhumane, and I told the National Guard to hold steady and not go down to the border — period,” Baker told reporters. “So we won’t be supporting that initiative unless they change their policy.”
New York Governor Cites ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy for Not Deploying National Guard to US Border
New York’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, also announced on June 18 that he will not deploy National Guard troops from his state to the U.S.-Mexico border. He cited the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy as justification for his action.
In a statement, Cuomo said, “In the face of this ongoing human tragedy, let me be very clear: New York will not be party to this inhumane treatment of immigrant families.” He continued, “We will not deploy National Guard to the border, and we will not be complicit in a political agenda that governs by fear and division.”
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D) joined Cuomo and Baker by taking executive action to bar any state resources from going to Trump’s border security and immigration policies, according to The Denver Post.
Hickenlooper told a news conference Monday: “To see the images and hear from religious leaders, psychological professionals and academics — political individuals from all backgrounds — unanimously to condemn this kind of activity is rare.” He added, “That you see that broad a consensus with that same passion and sense of urgency (is rare).”
In addition to the governors’ actions, a bipartisan group of former U.S. attorneys has penned an open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Their letter urges him to end the Trump administration’s highly controversial family separation policy at the border, Huffington Post reported.
“Your Zero Tolerance policy has resulted in the unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children,” they wrote.
“We also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served,” they continued.
Withholding of National Guard and Resources ‘Isn’t Likely to Make Much of a Difference’
Despite sounding like strong measures on paper, the New York, Massachusetts and Colorado governors’ withholding of National Guard troops and state resources from being used for border security in isn’t likely to make much of a difference.
Most National Guard troops serving at the Southwest border come from Arizona and Texas, with some from New Mexico and California sprinkled in. According to Vox.com, the governors of Arkansas, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Wisconsin have said they would send troops if asked. However, several other governors—including Nevada’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval —said they would not send troops.
Trump Wanted 4,000 National Guard Troops to Patrol US-Mexico Border
In April, Trump said he wanted to send up to 4,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, despite the fact that the states’ National Guards are prohibited by law from acting in a law enforcement capacity. Historically, the National Guard has assisted the Border Patrol via civil engineering projects, additional surveillance, and intelligence support.
The Border Patrol has also come to rely on some of military equipment that the National Guard can supply during these deployments. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) told the Los Angeles Times that some Guard members will be armed if they are placed in potential danger. But Abbott added that he wanted to “downplay any notion” that “our National Guard is showing up with military bayonets trying to take on anybody that’s coming across the border because that is not their role.”
Even though Trump’s National Guard deployment order was made in April, it’s still unclear where all of the troops would come from. Only several hundred have deployed, which is nowhere near his ultimate goal 4,000 Guard personnel.
In May, after three and a half weeks into the deployment, National Guard troops had contributed to 1,600 apprehensions of people crossing the border illegally, a Customs and Border Protection official told CNN. About 775 National Guard troops were working in the border region at the time.