At a White House event last week, Donald Trump seemed excited about “doing things militarily” along the U.S./Mexico border. “Until we can have a wall and proper security, we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” the president said. “That’s a big step. We really haven’t done that before – certainly not very much before.”
In reality, it’s not that big a step. The Bush and Obama administration used National Guard troops along the border, and in both of those instances, illegal border crossings were higher than they are now. In fact, given the total absence of a crisis, there’s no apparent substantive reason why Trump has made this decision.
In practical terms, however, the president isn’t simply dispatching 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops to the border; he’s actually requesting that governors agree to his request to deploy troops. Some aren’t.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, also a Republican, on Friday became one of the latest leaders to oppose the plan. His spokeswoman, Mary-Sarah Kinner, said in an email that Sandoval does not believe the mission would be “an appropriate use” of the Nevada National Guard.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, has said she would deny Trump’s request.
The news wasn’t all bad for the White House, however. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced plans to send about 150 Guard members this week, and Texas has agreed to send an additional 250 Guard troops, as part of an initial surge.
That’s a combined total of 400 people. What’s less clear, however, is exactly how Trump will cobble together 4,000 troops – his publicly stated goal. An Associated Press report added late last week, “New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s office said Friday that it had not yet deployed any Guard members. The office of California Gov. Jerry Brown did not respond to questions about whether it would deploy troops.”
I know the president wants 4,000 Guard troops along the border; I just don’t know if Trump is going to get 4,000 Guard troops along the border.
And if you’re wondering exactly what tasks these troops will be asked to complete, you’re not the only one. A CNN report noted the other day that it “remains unclear exactly what they will be there to do.”
Border Patrol Assistant Chief Carry Huffman told CNN in an interview that some of the tasks the agency would like National Guard troops to do include flying aerial missions, monitoring surveillance feeds, vehicle maintenance and doing construction projects like building and maintaining access roads.
I’m not suggesting there’s anything trivial about these tasks, but when Trump talks about “doing things militarily” along the U.S./Mexico border, apparently that includes asking governors to send National Guard troops for things such as “vehicle maintenance.”
Raise your hand if you think the president has fully thought this one through.
* Update: The AP reported this afternoon that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) now says that 225 members of his state’s National Guard are heading to the U.S.-Mexico border.