Trump’s Call For National Guard Troops At The Border Falling Flat

President Trump's call for National Guard troops isn't going over well even with Republican Governors.

Earlier this week, President Trump announced an initiative to send members of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexican border to combat what he contends is a huge problem. As part of that announcement, Trump said he envisioned anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 troops being sent to the border to supplement and aide immigration authorities, although the exact nature of the tasks they would perform has not been made clear at all. So far at least, that plan seems to be mostly falling flat even among border state Republican Governors.

The first states to respond to the call have been Arizona and Texas, which have announced plans to send a total of just 400 National Guard members to their respective borders:

Arizona and Texas announced Friday that they would send 400 National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border by next week in response to President Donald Trump’s call for troops to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said about 150 Guard members would deploy next week. And 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 Guard 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 Trump told reporters he wants to send. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez’s office said Friday that it had not yet deployed any Guard members. The office of California Gov. Jerry Brown did not respond to questions about whether it would deploy troops.

Trump’s proclamation Wednesday 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.

Defense Secretary James Mattis Friday night approved paying for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel from the Pentagon budget through the end of September. A Defense Department memo says the National Guard personnel 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 it did not further define that.

Sending 400 Guard members is, of course, far short of the number that the President is envisioning, but given the fact that it’s still entirely unclear what the troops could or would be doing, it seems clear that sending large conditions would just end up being a waste of time and resources that could potentially disrupt Federal immigration authorities from doing their jobs. Other states in the region have, so far at least, been less enthusiastic. California Governor Jerry Brown, for example, has been non-committal at best and could end up being an outright rejection of the President’s call to action. New Mexico’s Republican Governor Susanna Martinez has been positive in her reaction to the announcement but she has yet to announce how many troops she’d be willing to commit, while other authorities in New Mexico have voiced concern about how calling up the Guard could disrupt local law enforcement. Another Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, has said that calling up the National Guard was not appropriate under the circumstances, thus suggesting that his state would not respond positively to a request for troops from Washington. Finally, Oregon’s Democratic Governor Kate Brown has emphatically rejected the idea.

In the end, Trump’s call for troops is entirely dependent on the state Governors, unless he chose to federalize the National Guard in a particular state and issue orders of his own. While that remains a possibility, it seems like an unlikely one since it like would not go over well even with Republican Governors, and would most certainly be seen as disruptive to the lives of volunteers around the nation who would end up being sent to the border for what seems like no good reason to do essentially nothing useful.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Donald Trump, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Texas has 1254 miles of border with Mexico, so that should be roughly one Nat Guardsman every three miles. Except that they don’t work 24/7 so effectively it’s 100 Guardsmen, thus one every 12.5 miles. I believe what we have here is ‘token’ support for Trump’s made-up crisis.


  2. James Pearce says:

    These guys are going to be sooooo bored…..


  3. Daryl’s other brother Darryl says:

    An 81 year old women shows Democrats how to grow a pair…


  4. Scott says:

    This is what I wrote just two days ago. It still holds.

    Texas is stunt spending about $800M on the border and the Governor and DPS resist providing any evidence of efficacy. So Governor Abbott might welcome some Federal dollars to offset that money. On the border itself, there is mixed feelings. They tend to resent the border patrol and their tactics including tramping on their ranches,etc. On the other hand, all that LE is good for the lodging and restaurant businesses.

    It is all security theater for the most part.

    In addition, I suspect Gov Abbott is throwing this token to appease his right wing supporter as well as the President. Plus help the budget out. Even though we are in boom times, our state budget is out of whack and we may be in danger of a reduction of credit rating.


  5. CSK says:

    So what will Trump do? Throw a tantrum and nationalize the Guards he wants? He’s already melting down because Fox and Friends ripped into him for signing the Omnibus.


  6. Mister Bluster says:

    Sometime in the ’80s (?) before all local radio was syndicated out to Rightwing Gasbags, I heard an interview with a retired US Border Patrol Agent on KMOX out of Saint Louis. The most memorable comment that he made went something like this. “You could have soldiers deployed shoulder to shoulder with fixed bayonets along the border from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and you will not stop them from getting into the United States.”
    When he was asked what he did upon confronting those who were attempting to enter the US he replied: “I talked to them. I explained the risks they would face. Arrest and deportation.”
    I do not recall what he might have said about how effective this tack could be but I was left with the impression that no one walked past him to enter the country.


  7. Slugger says:

    I disagree with those who think that there are too few National Guards to do good:
    No, my fair cousin;
    If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
    To do our country loss; and if to live,
    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
    God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

    This will be glorious. After marching to the border, they can march in the big parade at Donaldpalooza. We must set up an arch for them to march through and design battle ribbons for their uniforms. A special medal made of gold for the commander-in-chief is a must. All the schoolchildren whose teachers are on strike can stand on the sidelines and wave flags.


  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    In the end, Trump’s call for troops is entirely dependent on the state Governors, unless he chose to federalize the National Guard in a particular state and issue orders of his own.

    But if he federalizes the troops, wouldn’t the Posse Comitatus Act prevent them from being used for law enforcement purposes?


  9. Timothy Watson says:

    @Mister Bluster: John Oliver did a segment on the Border Patrol awhile back where he talked about mind numbingly boring the job was. You might spend an entire day just sitting somewhere in your vehicle all by yourself and, if you get in a situation where you needed backup, you might be waiting an hour.


  10. Barry says:

    @James Pearce: “These guys are going to be sooooo bored…..”

    And those who don’t have employers who will support them can spend their time looking for a new job.


  11. Kathy says:

    Trump has done what I thought impossible: he united the country.

    Of course, the country he united is Mexico, and he united it against him, but you can’t have everything.


  12. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Answer’s obvious, isn’t it? We get MEXICO to patrol the border – from their own side!! Huh? HUH? Isn’t that MAGA-genius? Isn’t that great? Damn, I’m good. Where’s my cabinet post?