Arizona and Texas announced they would send 400 National Guard members to the US-Mexico border by next week in response to US President Donald Trump’s call for troops to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
- US Defence Secretary approves paying for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel from Pentagon budget
- US President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall on US-Mexico border have stalled in Congress
- Border Patrol caught about 50,000 people on the border in March
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said about 150 guard members would be deployed next week.
The Texas National Guard said it was already sending guardsmen to the border, with plans to place 250 troops there in the next 72 hours as an “initial surge”, according to a spokesman.
Two helicopters lifted off Friday night from Austin, the state capital, to head south.
The total so far remains well short of the 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard members that Mr Trump told reporters he wanted to send.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez’s office said Friday that it had not yet deployed any guard members.
The office of California Governor Jerry Brown did not respond to questions about whether it would deploy troops.
Mr Trump’s proclamation directing the use of National Guard troops refers to Title 32, a federal law under which guard members remain under the command and control of their state’s governor. This leaves open the possibility that California’s Brown could turn him down.
On Friday night Defence Secretary James Mattis approved paying for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel from the Pentagon budget through the end of September.
A Defence Department memo says the National Guard personnel will not perform law enforcement functions or “interact with migrants or other persons detained” without Mr Mattis’s approval.
It said “arming will be limited to circumstances that might require self defence”, but it did not further define that.
50,000 migrants caught in March
Deployments to the border under former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama both occurred under Title 32.
Mr Bush sent around 6,000 troops in 2006, and Mr Obama sent 1,200 Guard members in 2010.
Mr Trump’s proclamation blamed “the lawlessness that continues at our southern border”.
Mr Trump has suggested he wants to use the military on the border until progress is made on his proposed border wall, which has mostly stalled in Congress.
After plunging at the start of Mr 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 Mr Trump repeatedly took credit. Border apprehensions still remain well below the numbers when Mr Bush and Mr Obama deployed the Guard to the border.