WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump attacked California on Thursday for doing what he and his administration asked it to do: agreeing to deploy state National Guard members to help the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
The president tweeted that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) had agreed to send the troops to the border with Mexico “to do nothing.” He was referring to Brown’s commitment on Wednesday to dispatch 400 troops, as ordered by Trump, but with the caveat that they would not conduct immigration enforcement or build a wall. Trump said he wouldn’t fund “Brown’s charade.”
But if Brown’s order constitutes doing “nothing,” Trump would probably be disappointed to hear that National Guard troops being sent to the border by other states are not slated to directly participate in enforcing immigration laws or help build a wall, either.
Government officials told reporters in Washington on Monday that the guard members would be helping CBP in ways that don’t involve direct contact with unauthorized immigrants. They will instead be aiding with aerial surveillance, monitoring cameras, operating and maintaining equipment and other administrative tasks, the officials from CBP, the National Guard and the Department of Defense said.
None would be required to build border wall as of now, the officials said.
The potential deployment in California could be somewhat different. Brown demanded that his state’s troops focus solely on fighting criminal gangs, human trafficking and the smuggling of drugs and firearms. He turned down the administration’s initial terms for deploying the National Guard, Trump administration officials said Monday.
Brown said on Wednesday that the federal government had agreed to fund his plan for the troop deployment, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted her thanks to the governor that evening. She added that the deal’s final details were still being worked out.
The California National Guard’s tasks will include radio communications, operating surveillance cameras, planning, training, intelligence analysis, paralegal assistance and operating motor transport and heavy equipment, a DHS official said Friday. Those are similar to what other states’ National Guards will do to support CBP as of now.
The White House did not clarify whether Trump supported funding for other National Guard troops who won’t be directly involved with immigration enforcement.
Trump’s criticism of Brown and California comes after months of attacks on the state and its lawmakers over immigration. California is home to the nation’s largest population of undocumented immigrants, and has a so-called “sanctuary” law that limits police cooperation with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, although police do turn individuals over to the federal government in certain instances.
The president ordered the border deployment of National Guard troops earlier this month in response to an uptick in apprehensions at the boundary. Many of those arrested have been families and unaccompanied children seeking asylum or other relief in the U.S.
This article has been updated with details on the California National Guard’s plans to assist Customs and Border Protection.