PHOENIX (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Monday that 225 members of the state’s National Guard were heading to the U.S.-Mexico border to support President Donald Trump’s call for troops to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
More of the state’s Guard members will be deployed on Tuesday, said Ducey, a Republican.
The Arizona troops were being sent after Texas announced Friday it would send 250 National Guard members and helicopters took the first of them to the border.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement last week:
“My top priority as Governor is ensuring the safety and security of Texans, and securing our southern border has always been essential to that mission,” said Governor Abbott. “In my time as Governor, Texas has maintained a continuous presence of National Guard members along the border, and we’ve added hundreds of permanent Department of Public Safety troopers to the region. Today’s action by the Trump Administration reinforces Texas’ longstanding commitment to secure our southern border and uphold the Rule of Law, and I welcome the support. Going forward, Texas will continue to implement robust border security efforts, and this partnership will help ensure we are doing everything we can to stem the flow of illegal immigration.”
Trump said last week he wants to send 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard members to the border. The Arizona deployments were beginning Monday but Capt. Aaron Thatcher said it was unlikely all 225 would be at the border by the end of Monday.
Ducey told a group of soldiers preparing to deploy from a Phoenix military base that their “mission is about providing manpower and resources to support federal, state, county, tribal and local law enforcement agencies in stopping the flow of criminals, narcotics, weapons and ammunition that is being trafficked into our state.”
He told reporters later that the deployments are needed to stop a surge of border crossing since March and accused the U.S. government of previously ignoring the border “for nearly a decade.”
Texas officials showed images over the weekend of guard members arriving at the border but the state’s National Guard did not respond to queries Monday about how many of the 250 troops it said would be at the border soon had arrived.
New Mexico’s Republican governor has said her state would take part in the operation but no announcement has been made on deployment. California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, has not said if the state’s Guard members will participate.
Ducey denied that his decision to send guard members to the border was politically motivated.
“I don’t think this is a partisan issue or an identity issue,” Ducey said. “You show me somebody who is for drug cartels or human trafficking or this ammunition that’s coming over a wide-open and unprotected border here.”
Trump has said he wants to use the military at the border until progress is made on his proposed border wall, which has mostly stalled in Congress.
Defense Secretary James Mattis last Friday approved paying for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel from the Pentagon budget through the end of September.
A Defense Department memo said the National Guard members will not perform law enforcement functions or “interact with migrants or other persons detained” without Mattis’s approval.
It said “arming will be limited to circumstances that might require self-defense” but did not further define that.
The head of the U.S. Border Patrol sector that includes part of West Texas and all of New Mexico said Monday he met with leaders of the New Mexico National Guard to begin discussions about what will be required and their capabilities.
El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Hull says those troops are nowhere near deploying yet.
The New Mexico Guard members could help with air support, surveillance and infrastructure repairs, Hull said.
Hull says the troops could help with air support, surveillance and repairs of infrastructure along the border.
Brown’s spokesman, Evan Westrup, said Monday that California is still reviewing Trump’s request for use of the state’s National Guard members.
California National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Keegan said last week that any request will be “promptly reviewed to determine how best we can assist our federal partners.”
After plunging at the start of Trump’s presidency, the numbers of migrants apprehended at the southwest border have started to rise in line with historical trends.
The Border Patrol said it caught around 50,000 people in March, more than three times the number in March 2017.
That’s erased a decline for which Trump repeatedly took credit.
Border apprehensions still remain well below the numbers when former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama deployed the Guard to the border.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)