By ELLIOT SPAGAT, SAN DIEGO, (AP): California has rejected the federal government’s initial plans for National Guard troops to the border because the work is considered too closely tied to immigration enforcement, two U.S. officials told The Associated Press.
The state informed federal officials it will not allow its troops to fix and repair vehicles, operate remotely-controlled surveillance cameras to report suspicious activity to the Border Patrol, operate radios and provide “mission support,” which can include clerical work, buying gas and handling payroll, according to officials with knowledge of the talks who spoke condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
California Gov. Jerry Brown elicited rare and effusive praise from President Donald Trump last week after he pledged 400 troops to the Guard’s third large-scale border mission since 2006.
The governor’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.
But the Democratic Brown conditioned his support by insisting that California’s troops have nothing to do with immigration enforcement. He was not specific about jobs his troops would or would not perform or how he would distinguish between immigration-related work and going after criminal gangs and drug and gun smugglers.
California National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Keegan said Monday 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 question about California’s rejection of specific guard duties.
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 federal officials that they would not participate in vehicle maintenance and the other jobs outlined for an initial phase across the border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the U.S. officials said. The other border-state governors — all Republicans — have openly embraced Trump’s plans.
The state’s position infuriated some federal officials because the restrictions California officials wanted to impose on what the state’s troops would not do were considered onerous, the officials said.
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.
(In this April 10, 2018 frame from video, a National Guard troop watches over Rio Grande River on the border in Roma, Texas. The deployment of National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border at Pr …In this April 10, 2018 frame from video, a National Guard troop watches over Rio Grande River on the border in Roma, Texas. The deployment of National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border at President Donald Trump’s request was underway Tuesday with a gradual ramp-up of troops under orders to help curb illegal immigration. (AP Photo-John Mone)