By Nick Cahill
SACRAMENTO – California is pulling hundreds of National Guard soldiers deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border last year at President Donald Trump’s request, and new Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday the troops are better used preventing wildfires than fighting Trump’s “manufactured” border crisis.
Last April, then-Gov. Jerry Brown approved an order to send 360 National Guard troops to the border but was adamant the troops would not be helping the federal government with immigration operations. Brown told Californians the troops would not be “on a mission to round up women and children” but would instead be sniffing out drug smugglers and gang members.
Via executive order, Newsom on Monday rescinded Brown’s order which was set to expire at the end of March. The state will reassign 110 troops from the border to help the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with wildfire prevention, and another 250 members will fight drug cartels and other drug trafficking operations.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, the Golden State’s junior senator and 2020 presidential candidate, tweeted her support of Newsom’s move.
“We cannot support this administration’s misuse of our military resources and attempts to militarize our border without justification,” Harris wrote.
Since taking over in January, Gov. Newsom has been rather subdued in his comments about Trump’s actions or tweets, but the San Francisco Democrat will go after the president on immigration in his first State of the State address scheduled for Tuesday morning.
In excerpts provided by his office, the new governor plans to tell lawmakers and residents that California won’t be actors in the Trump administration’s “political theater.”
“We are currently experiencing the lowest number of border crossings since 1971. In California, like our nation, our undocumented population is at its lowest level in more than a decade,” according to the excerpts. “Which is why I have given the National Guard a new mission. They will refocus on the real threats facing our state.”
State National Guards have been assisting the federal government since last spring, when President Trump asked for a surge of troops to the southern border. The troops are not allowed to make immigration arrests but have reportedly been handling other tasks for the feds including vehicle maintenance and monitoring security cameras.
Newsom and many other state Democrats disagreed with Brown’s decision to send nearly 400 National Guard troops at Trump’s behest. Last week, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat, withdrew National Guard troops from the border in her state.
Newsom’s order follows Trump’s announcement last week that he is sending 3,750 U.S. troops to the border to fight illegal immigration. The president is also scheduled to speak near the U.S.-Mexico border Monday and drum support for his border wall in El Paso, Texas.
In his State of the Union address last week, Trump renewed his demands for a border wall.
“Congress has 10 days left to pass a bill that will fund our government, protect our homeland and secure our very dangerous southern border. Now is the time for Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels and drug dealers and human traffickers out of business,” Trump said.
In his planned remarks, Newsom will likely say the president’s stance on immigration is “fundamentally at odds with California values.”
“He described a country where inequality didn’t seem to be a problem, where climate change doesn’t exist, and where the greatest threat we face comes from families at the border, seeking asylum from violence-stricken countries,” Newsom will say to the audience at state Capitol on Tuesday.