WASHINGTON (AP) — Saying the situation had reached “a point of crisis,” President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a proclamation ordering the deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration.
“The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people,” Trump wrote in a memo authorizing the move, adding that his administration had “no choice but to act.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had been in discussions with the governors of the southwestern border states and has been working with them to develop agreements that will oversee where and how many Guardsmen will be deployed.
She suggested that some troops could begin arriving as soon as Wednesday night, though other administration officials cautioned that details on troop levels, locations and timing were still being worked out.
National Guard personnel would not be allowed to arrest people crossing the border but could provide support to the Border Patrol, much as happened in 2006 under the Bush administration, and in 2010 under the Obama administration, Nielsen said.
Trump had said Tuesday that he planned to deploy the military to the border until his long-promised wall is built.
The number of people apprehended crossing the border illegally plummeted in the initial months of the Trump administration. But in recent months, Nielsen said, officials have seen the numbers climb.
“The threat is real,” Nielsen said. “It’s time to act.”
There was no immediate indication that the border mission would include any National Guard troops from Nebraska or Iowa. Lt. Col. Michael Wunn, an Iowa National Guard spokesman, confirmed that no Iowa Guard members were being called up. Taylor Gage, a spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts, said the White House has reached out to four states, and Nebraska is not among them.
Nielsen blamed much of the uptick in illegal crossings on an increase in the number of people from Central American countries who cross the border, surrender to the Border Patrol, say they fear persecution at home and ask for asylum. Nielsen said many of those asylum claims are fraudulent.
She said the administration would once again ask Congress to change immigration law to allow faster processing of claims and speedier deportations.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he welcomed the deployment of more guardsmen. Republicans who lead congressional Homeland Security committees also supported Trump’s plan.
Many Democrats were cool to the idea. Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico denounced the plan as “another pitiful attempt to distract attention from the dangerous chaos” Trump has created.
Federal law prohibits the use of active-duty service members for law enforcement inside the U.S., unless authorized by Congress. But over the past 12 years, presidents have twice sent National Guard troops to the border to bolster security and assist with surveillance and other support.
World-Herald staff writer Steve Liewer contributed to this report, which includes material from the Tribune Washington Bureau.