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April 18, 2018
 

California rejects border duties for troops

Elliot Spagat
Associated Press

California has rejected terms of the federal government’s initial plans for sending National Guard troops to the border because the work is considered too closely tied to immigration, two U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

Gov. Jerry Brown elicited rare and effusive praise from President Donald Trump last week for pledging 400 troops to the Guard’s third large-scale border mission since 2006. But the Democratic governor conditioned his commitment on troops having nothing to do with immigration enforcement, even in a supporting role.

Brown’s announcement last week did not address what specific jobs the California Guard would and would not do and how state officials would distinguish work related to immigration from other aspects of border enforcement, such as fighting criminal gangs and drug and gun smuggling.

Brown’s offer of troops for the mission that Trump wants up to 4,000 troops to perform is still in place. But state authorities told federal officials late last week that the California Guard will not perform tasks in an initial rollout planned for all four border states, according to officials with knowledge of the talks who spoke condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Those jobs include fixing and maintaining vehicles, using remote-control surveillance cameras to report suspicious activity to U.S. border patrol agents, operating radios and providing “mission support,” which can include clerical work, buying gas and handling payroll, the officials said. California National Guard members have done such work in previous border deployments.

Talks are ongoing and the federal government has yet to publicly respond to Brown’s demand that troops avoid immigration enforcement or the state’s position on avoiding the specific jobs proposed, the officials said.

The federal government also proposed that troops provide air support in a second phase of the border-wide rollout, which includes aerial surveillance and flying agents to remote locations, but California officials have not responded to that request, the officials said.

Republican governors from the three other border states — Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — have openly embraced the Trump administration’s plans and specific tasks for guard members sent to the border with Mexico. Texas National Guard members are already doing aerial and ground surveillance. Officials with Arizona’s National Guard said last week that its troops will provide air and ground support.

Brown’s commitment allowed Trump to boast support from all four border-state governors and helped put the president above the lower end of his threshold of marshaling 2,000 to 4,000 troops that he wants as a border security mission to fight illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

California National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Keegan said April 16 that the state was awaiting a formal response from the administration and had no additional details beyond the governor’s proposed agreement released last week that includes a ban on immigration enforcement.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor, did not immediately answer detailed questions about the California’s position on specific jobs that the Trump administration has proposed, like ground surveillance and vehicle repairs.

Brown last week characterized his decision to contribute troops as a welcome infusion of federally-funded support to fight transnational criminal gangs and drug and firearms smugglers. According to one U.S. official, the California Guard has suggested assigning about 40 troops to marijuana eradication across the state.

Talks between U.S. and California officials about the duties the California troops would perform soured Friday and over the weekend after state authorities told them they would not participate in the initial tasks proposed for California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the U.S. officials said.




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