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California Gov. Newsom Mostly Ends State's National Guard Border Deployment

February 11, 2019 1:23 p.m.

GUEST:Steve Walsh, military reporter, KPBS

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Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is pulling the state's National Guard from the border. Up to 400 Guard troops have been assisting the Border Patrol since April. Newsom's office announced that he will sign an order today that rescinds an agreement made by Gov. Jerry Brown on the request of the Trump administration. K PBS military reporter Steve Walsh has been following the story and is joining us with the latest Steve. Welcome. Hi Jade. So previously Governor Jerry Brown had come to an agreement with the Trump administration to deploy California National Guard troops to the Mexican border.

They've been on the border since last spring and before he left office Brown extended the mission to run through at least March. What can you tell us about why Governor Newsom is rescinding that agreement now.

So Governor Newsom's office started telegraphing this yesterday afternoon that they were going to make this announcements a lot of people have been kind of prodding the governor. He had talked all the way since when he was in campaigning for governor that he did not like this mission. He didn't think the Guard should be there on the border. So it was no surprise that he eventually did pull them but he took his time. He at the press conference just after he took office he said that he was looking at the issue he was deciding whether or not this was in line with California values.

And even last week a world about ten days ago in San Diego he said he was still looking at this he wanted to really zero in and try to figure out whether or not this mission was going to be something that that California could support. In the end this money was going to sign that executive order and we're going to hear more about that tomorrow in the status of the State address.

We have National Guard troops him working as Border Patrol and where will they be going. What will they be doing moving forward. Talk to me about that.

Sure. So you have to think back to last April when Governor Brown signed the order to send them down there in the first place this took over a week. There was a lot of wrangling back and forth with the Trump administration as to what exactly they would do. Governor Brown was very clear that he did not want guardsmen to have direct contact with migrants so they are performing all these kind of support tasks like changing oil changing tires they're monitoring cameras they're doing dispatched down there and all that designed to sort of free up Border Patrol agents so then they could go out there and then have direct contact with the influx of migrants.

And and what will they be doing next.

So he's got a bunch of different ideas for where they're going to go. He's saying he's redeploying them there's about 360 National Guard troops on the border now about 110 of them are going to be shifted to prepare for fire season. About 150 of them are expected to be part of the California Guard's statewide counter drug task force. And then another 100 of them will conduct intel operations against drug cartels around the state. Some of those I'm told will stay here in San Diego and they will still be working with the Border Patrol but in far more limited roles kind of X-ray screening and the like.

Some of this at least is not a done deal because you're going to need federal money especially to increase the statewide counter drug task force. So one of the reasons why Governor Newsome might have taken so long is because he still wants this federal money you know and the guard is is mainly supported by federal funds. And if he wants to have more troops out there and remaining on on active duty like this he's going to need money from the federal government and what kind of reaction has there been so far to this announcement.

Well we're all waiting for the tweet Jade. We're all waiting for the tweet from the from the president to talk about to his response. Now California is now the second border state to pull out of this mission to the border. New Mexico did it last week. President Trump is in El Paso Texas right now and he's tweeted out that he's going to have a big speech on border security and to talk about much else tonight. So we'll all be wondering we'll all be waiting to see whether or not he's going to mentioned Governor Newsom's decision.

How unusual is it for National Guard troops to help the federal government along the U.S. Mexico border.

Well it's been done before it was done during the Bush administration and it was also done during the Obama administration and there is a you know an ongoing relationship between the Guard and the federal government. As I said they work on these counter drug task force all the time they'll do things like you know marijuana eradication and the like. So there is a close working relationship between all of the guards especially border state guards and the federal government.

So even though most of the state's National Guard troops will be leaving the border there will continue to be a military presence at the border is that right.

Oh correct. So part of what the Governor Newsome has said is he's calling this a manufactured crisis because President Trump has already said he's going to be sending in a 3000 750 troops to the border. One thing we know about that mission is that we've had troops there since since October just before the midterm elections. And we've found recently that most of those troops went home about February 1st after their mission had expired. So now we're waiting to see how many of that 3000 750 troops will be coming back to California mostly to lay concertina wire not at the port of entries which is what they had been doing but out in the desert which is they want to create essentially more barrier between U.S. and Mexico where it doesn't exist.

So meanwhile tonight President Trump as you mentioned is heading to El Paso to continue to push for his border wall as a second national government shutdown looms over border security funding. Do you know how soon this pullout will happen.

It's anytime he saw a signing the order today he's going to talk about it in the state of the State message tomorrow. So right now they're saying it's it's not what you think. This is not troops in tents standing at the border. Some of them have been on a Navy base in Imperial Beach. Others have just been in hotel rooms so they can pick up and leave basically as soon as the governor tells them.

I've been speaking with KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. Steve thanks for joining us. Thanks Jade.