WASHINGTON — Only four governors have been contacted about sending National Guard units to the U.S. – Mexico border, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday, as Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who served in the reserve forces, said she was “alarmed” at the potential deployment.
Duckworth, in the Army Reserves and the Illinois Army National Guard for 23 years, retiring as a lieutenant colonel, said in a statement, “I am deeply alarmed that the Trump Administration is attempting to politicize the National Guard and using deployments to advance a political messaging agenda that is detached from real operational requirements.
“The U.S. military and Federal law enforcement deserve better from their Commander-in-Chief,” said Duckworth.
When President Donald Trump announced his plan, neither his White House nor the DHS, nor the Pentagon would or could say the number of troops needed, the specific missions, about how long the deployments will last, how much this will cost and how states will be reimbursed for expenses.
On Thursday afternoon aboard Air Force One, Trump said the National Guard members would number “anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000.” Asked about cost, the president said, “We’re looking at it, but, I mean, I have a pretty good idea. But it depends on what we do.”
A DHS spokesperson, Jonathan Hoffman, told the Chicago Sun-Times the governors of the border states of Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California were called by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Republicans are governors of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, while California is led by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, a leader of the Democratic resistance to Trump. Governors are the commanders-in-chief of state guard troops.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Brown is holding back on approving the request until he knows more details.
The Times reported, “California Gov. Jerry Brown, heard from Nielsen about the issue for the first time on Wednesday, according to a spokesman. Without key details — including the number of troops, the duration of their deployment and the cost — the Democratic governor was unwilling to commit to the effort, his spokesman said.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, in a Thursday morning interview with Fox News Channel’s America’s Newsroom, when asked about the numbers said “as many as it takes. … I can’t give you an idea because we don’t know exactly how many are going to participate – how many we need to solve this problem. We do know the problem is a crisis. It’s urgent.”
The National Guard members will be assigned to assist the Border Patrol.
Nielsen, in a Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends interview on Thursday morning discussed some ways the troops could be used, including air support.
“So we’d be looking for them to do that. They help provide medical care for those that we do interdict. They’d help us do fleet maintenance. You know we need a lot of mechanics to use in that terrain so it’s a lot of support functions that will free up the border patrol to do what they do best, which is enforce border laws.”
THE STATISTICS: Trump’s move seems pegged to two events, a “caravan” of migrants from Central America on a march toward the U.S. border and a rise in the number of apprehensions. The “caravan” has been broken while still deep in Mexico.
While there has been a recent spike, over the past years illegal entry to the U.S. has not climbed.
According to DHS data released on Thursday, “In March a total of 37,393 individuals were apprehended between ports of entry on our Southwest Border, compared with 26,662 in February and 25,978 in January.”
But overall, apprehensions have been down, DHS numbers show: In Fiscal Year 2017, the U.S. Border Patrol “apprehended 303,916 individuals along our Southwest Border, compared to 408,870 in FY16, 331,333 in FY15, and 479,371 in FY14.”
More people presenting themselves at border crossings in the Southwest have been turned away from entering the U.S. in the past three months.
According to DHS, “In March, 12,915 people presenting themselves at ports of entry on the Southwest Border were deemed inadmissible compared to 10,021 in February, and 9,839 in January.
“In FY 2017 111,275 individuals were deemed inadmissible compared to 150,825 in FY16, 114,486 in FY15 and 90,601 in FY14.”