The issue of border security has been made a top priority by President Donald Trump, and in light of the series of Central American migrant caravans that continue to travel to the border — in addition to the typical illicit cross-border traffic — Trump has deployed both state-level National Guard troops and active-duty military troops to the border to bolster U.S. Border Patrol agents in their efforts.
But now the Democratic governor of one of the border states has ordered the bulk of the National Guard troops deployed within the state to withdraw from the border — in what appears to be a move to spite the president and undermine his agenda.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Democratic Gov. of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, ordered the partial withdrawal just hours prior to President Trump’s State of the Union address, a speech in which he spoke a great deal about the importance of securing the southern border.
That move by Grisham reversed the actions of her Republican predecessor, Susana Martinez, who had deployed National Guard troops to the New Mexico-Mexico border in April 2018, at Trump’s request. There were reportedly about 118 members of that deployment left at the border prior to the reversal.
The decision from Grisham came after she visited the border in January to assess the situation for herself and receive briefings from both the National Guard and Border Patrol.
The AP reported that only about a dozen soldiers from that contingent would remain at the border to deal with “humanitarian” issues, and noted that in addition to withdrawing most of the New Mexico National Guard troops, Grisham had also ordered about two dozen troops from other states — Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Wisconsin — to also withdraw from the border and leave her state and return to their own.
In a press release from the governor’s office, Grisham said, “I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country.”
With respect to the dozen troops left for humanitarian reasons, as well as the deployment of six State Police officers to assist local law enforcement in the border region, Grisham added, “However, I recognize and appreciate the legitimate concerns of residents and officials in southwestern New Mexico, particularly Hidalgo County, who have asked for our assistance, as migrants and asylum-seekers continue to appear at their doorstep.”
“We will support our neighbors where the need for assistance is great, and we will offer a helping hand when we can to those vulnerable people who arrive at our border, but New Mexico will not take part in the president’s charade of border fear-mongering by misusing our diligent National Guard troops,” she continued, seeming to challenge President Trump.
“We will deploy our men and women in uniform only where there is a need, and where their presence can make a genuine difference in ensuring public safety and an easing of the humanitarian concerns at our southern border,” the governor added.
Some would argue that those men and women had already been deployed because of a “need” at the border and were already making a “genuine difference” with regard to public safety by providing assistance in the background for the Border Patrol agents tasked with actually defending the border and apprehending illegal crossers, a task the National Guard troops were not assigned or routinely dealt with.
To be sure, while Gov. Grisham’s withdrawal of the National Guard troops from the border certainly won’t help security matters in that area, the region will not be left entirely undefended, as that particular stretch of the border had already been supplemented by some of the active-duty military troops that Trump had deployed within the past several months.
On top of that, the Pentagon just announced on Sunday that Trump had ordered the deployment of an additional 3,750 military troops to the southern border, bringing the grand total of active-duty troops assigned to the border to at least 4,350.
The role of those active-duty military troops is to provide whatever assistance is deemed necessary by the Border Patrol agents they are supporting, and in particular to help string up multiple strands of barbed and razor wire as a formidable barrier against illicit cross-border traffic.
It is a chief responsibility of a state’s governor to protect their citizens from crime and invasion, which is exactly what is coming across the southern border on a daily basis. In this, Gov. Grisham is neglecting — or worse, purposefully avoiding — fulfilling that duty, all because of partisan differences with the current president of the United States.
It remains to be seen exactly how Trump will respond to this deliberate swipe, but he certainly isn’t without options.
The president could shift more Border Patrol agents to that sector, deploy even more active-duty troops to the area, or even declare an emergency and federalize the New Mexico contingent of National Guard to be re-deployed to the border, all of which would render the governor’s spiteful move irrelevant.