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California To Join Guard Border Mission, But With Conditions

Stretches of secondary fencing are topped with spirals of concertina wire along the U.S.-Mexico border near the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego on Aug. 16, 2017.
Brandon Quester / inewsource
Stretches of secondary fencing are topped with spirals of concertina wire along the U.S.-Mexico border near the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego on Aug. 16, 2017.
California To Join Guard Border Mission, But With Conditions
California To Join Guard Border Mission, But With Conditions GUEST:Debbie Kang, visiting scholar, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego

Our talk today, Governor Jerry Brown has agreed to call up California National Guard troops in accordance with Trump's border enforcement request. It is not clear how many of the 400 additional personnel will actually be sent to the border. Brown said he would deploy the troops to assist in targeting transnational criminal gangs making it quote crystal-clear in his letter to the administration that the servicemembers would not take part in enforcing federal immigration law. Trump is the third president in a row to call for additional National Guard troops at the border. But the effectiveness of those deployments is not entirely clear. Joining me is Debbie Kang. She is a visiting research fellow at the Center for comparative immigration studies at UC San Diego. And author of the book the INS on the line, making immigration law on the U.S. Mexico border. Debbie, welcome to the program. >> Thank you for having me. >> In the past two in ministrations, why did President George W. Bush and Barack Obama call for additional National Guard troops at the border? >> There are a variety of reasons for both presidents, for George Bush, he was building up the border patrol, there are specific customs and this was an ongoing response to the 9/11 terrorist attack. And he felt in order to give that unit time to build up its forces, he needed to employ the National Guard to assist in border monitoring operations. Per President Obama, he was also concerned about undocumented immigration and facing a lot of pressure from Republicans in the southwestern states. This was about 2010 and as you may recall, Arizona had just passed SP sent 70. So, that's another moment in American nativism and this again was putting pressure on Obama so he felt that he needed to do something about undocumented immigration. And hence he deploy the National Guard. Now for both presidents, they were also very interested in passing comprehensive immigration reform. This obviously did not happen for both presidents, but they both felt that in deploying the National Guard, this would help them to achieve their immigration agendas. >> For those two respective reasons, that the presidents sent out the National Guard, where the National Guard deployments successful? >> The general consensus is that they were not. In general, both deployments helped the border patrol to survey the border, remotely. And they also, assisted in the pursuit of drug smugglers. When you look at the actual figures, the proportion of undocumented immigrants, that were apprehended, and the amount of drugs that were found, they constitute a very small proportion. >> Is this call from President trump different from the previous deployments? >> It is different. So far, as the media has been reporting and as the border patrol itself has been reporting, the apprehensions of undocumented immigrants has fallen to an all-time low. For fiscal year 2017, apprehensions fell to around 300,000. And this is the lowest number since 1971. >> So, your point being that there is no reason? >> There is no clear reason. Trumps allegations that there is a crisis of undocumented immigration along the border, it doesn't seem to be borne out by the actual numbers. >> Now, Governor Jerry Brown has made it clear that the California National Guard will not help build the wall, or as he says round up women and children or enforce immigration law. But will the National Guard be doing any of that enforcement anywhere along the border in any state? >> No. And when you look at the department of defense set of instructions, that was issued as part of this implementation of trumps border, the National Guard is not permitted to enforce domestic laws, it's not permitted to interface with migrants in any way. Or enforce the immigration law. It's also not impaired to possess weapons, it's only impaired to use weapons in cases where the guard fails at self-defense and it might be necessary. There are real limits here on this operation. >> What kind of assistance will the guards provide then? >> I think as in the past, operations under both the Bush and the Obama administration, the guards will be surveying the border remotely. You will not necessarily have guardsmen on the lines, standing next to a border patrol officer, writing in the Jeeps with them and whatnot. They may be in a building somewhere, watching a computer screen you know, that monitors the cameras that are lined up along the border. They also, will be helping to repair fences. And some of the roads along the border and again, this is very similar to what happened especially under the Bush administration. They will not be engaged in this kind of active policing of the border. >> If this sounds to you like more of a political gesture, then an actual boost to border protection, why do you think the border patrol itself has greeted this announcement so positively? >> I think for many years the border patrol has been chomping at the bit. To enforce the nation's immigration laws in the way that they see best. And, we have heard statements from the head of the border patrol union, based here in San Diego, expressing as much, a report just came out, in the Philadelphia Inquirer about enforcement and, it is highly aggressive in nature, and what seems to be happening once again is the border patrol feels like the Trump administration has given them free reign to enforce immigration laws and in a highly aggressive manner. >> So apparently the agreement for additional guard troops and September 30, what if anything do you think can be accomplished on the border in that six month period.? >> I'm not sure I can be accomplished, especially when you look at past presidents. If you look at what happened under the bush and my Obama administration. They were just sitting around and in some cases you know, they did repair the infrastructure, and that might have been useful. In the state of California, they may assist the current operations, that the National Guard conducts with respect transnational crime. It's really not clear. Exactly, what will be accomplished. On the other hand, what is clear is that this will cost a lot of money and again, past presidents did the same. That two-year cooperation costed millions. Currently the state of Texas is saying that their operation will cost at least $1 million a month. So, it's very expensive. >> I have been speaking with Debbie Kang, visiting research fellow at UC San Diego. Debbie, thank you. >> Thank you.

California Gov. Jerry Brown accepted President Donald Trump's call to send the National Guard to the Mexican border, but rejected the White House's portrait of a burgeoning border crisis and insisted that his troops will have nothing to do with immigration enforcement.

The Democratic governor broke a week of silence Wednesday by agreeing to contribute 400 troops, though not all will be on the border. Brown's commitment brought the pledges from four states that border Mexico to just shy of the low end of the president's target of 2,000 to 4,000 troops.

Trump praised Brown on Twitter Thursday, but did not address the governor's comments on immigration. The president said Brown was "doing the right thing and sending the National Guard to the Border. Thank you Jerry, good move for the safety of our Country!"

RELATED: Gov. Brown Commits 400 Troops To Combat ‘Transnational Crime,’ Not For Immigration Enforcement

Brown cast his decision as a welcome infusion of federal support to fight transnational criminal gangs and drug and firearms smugglers.

"Combating these criminal threats are priorities for all Americans - Republicans and Democrats," Brown wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Federal law, notably the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, sharply limits military involvement in civilian law enforcement, creating a supporting role for the Guard. The Pentagon said last week that troops won't perform law enforcement functions or interact with people detained by border authorities without its approval.

Brown released a proposed agreement with the federal government that emphasizes the widely shared understanding of the Guard's limited role but explicitly bans any support of immigration enforcement. It says troops cannot guard anyone in custody for immigration violations or participate in construction of border barriers.

The White House praised Brown's decision without addressing his comments on immigration enforcement.

"We're also glad to see California Gov. Jerry Brown work with the administration and send members of the National Guard to help secure the southern border," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Reaction in California was limited, with few of Brown's allies or opponents weighing in.

State Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and author of California's so-called sanctuary state law, said Guard deployment was unnecessary and not a good use of resources. But he said more can be done to combat border crime and that he appreciated Brown's design of "a clear and limited mission focused on real public safety threats."

"I am confident Governor Brown will not use our National Guard to harass or tear apart immigrant families in California," he said in a statement.

Rob Stutzman, who advised former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, praised the decision on Twitter, calling Brown's decision to accept money for using the Guard to fight drugs and human trafficking "good government."

Immigration advocacy groups were critical, saying Brown's support was a boost for Trump's agenda. Lillian Serrano, chair of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, acknowledged the governor's proposed limits on the Guard's role but said his decision reflected "flawed logic that we need more boots on the ground."

Pedro Rios, director for the American Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico border program in San Diego, questioned why Brown would send troops while rejecting Trump's premise that they are needed to help stop illegal immigration.

"If he's in disagreement with Donald Trump about the justifications for having the National Guard on the border, then why would he accept it?" he said.

Unlike Republican governors in other border states, Brown disagreed with Trump's portrayal of a border spiraling out of control, noting that Border Patrol arrests fell to the lowest level last year since 1971 and that California accounted for only 15 percent of the agency's arrests on the Mexican border.

"Here are the facts: there is no massive wave of migrants pouring into California," Brown wrote the Trump Cabinet members.

In contrast, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is contributing 1,000 troops, embraced Trump's mission the day it was announced, saying it would promote the rule of law and "help ensure we are doing everything we can to stem the flow of illegal immigration."

Brown said California's troops would join an existing program to combat transnational drug crime, firearms smuggling and human trafficking. About 250 California National Guard troops are already participating, including 55 at the border.

The new contingent of California Guard members being deployed could be posted at the border, the coast and elsewhere statewide, Brown said.

California deployed troops to the border under former Presidents George W. Bush in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2010.