California Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday he would accept federal funds to add hundreds of new members to the National Guard to support the state’s “ongoing program to combat transnational crime.” But he emphasized that the troops wouldn’t be enforcing federal immigration policies.
The announcement comes in response to President Donald Trump’s directive to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security to work with governors across the country to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a letter to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Brown said he would accept funding from the federal government to increase the state’s guard by some 400 troops. Of these new guard members, some would be stationed at the border, he said, while others would be deployed to the coast and other parts of California.
“Let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission,” he wrote. “This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”
It isn’t clear how many of the 400 would be deployed to the border. But Brown noted in his letter that the state currently has 250 personnel across the state, 55 of whom are stationed at the border, as a part of its program to combat transnational crime.
“The location of Guard personnel – and number specifically working in support of operations along the border, the coast and elsewhere in the state – will be dictated by the needs on the ground,” Evan Westrup, a spokesperson for Brown, told HuffPost on Wednesday.
Brown said the additional members would contribute to the guard’s ongoing efforts, which include “targeting transnational criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers along the border, the coast and throughout the state.”
The governor also noted that the state’s National Guard “agreed to similar targeted assistance” under the past two presidents.
Brown’s announcement comes amid growing tensions between California and the Trump administration. In March, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a federal lawsuit targeting the state’s so-called “sanctuary” policies that don’t fully cooperate with federal deportation efforts.
Governors act as the commander-in-chief of their respective states’ guards, which is why Trump isn’t authorized to direct the troops as he sees fit. Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she would flat-out reject the president’s request.
Texas, meanwhile, has sent 250 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border since Trump made the announcement.
Trump has warned of “caravans” threatening to shuttle waves of dangerous immigrants across the border ― a fear-mongering tactic that echoes racist and derogatory comments he made on the campaign trail and in the first year of his presidency.
In his letter, Jerry Brown pointed out that the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended by Border Patrol agents is already the lowest its been in decades.
“Here are the facts: there is no massive wave of migrants pouring into California,” the governor wrote.