New Mexico governor withdraws state’s National Guard troops from southern border

Posted at 12:31 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-07 11:02:30-05

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday her decision to order the withdrawal of National Guard troops from the southern border was to avoid using the reserve military force to “militarize the border.”

“I’m not going to participate, nor do I think it’s appropriate in any shape or fashion to use the National Guard to attempt to militarize the border where we’re dealing with asylum seekers who their constitutional rights continue to be breached,” the newly elected Democratic governor said Wednesday during a news conference in her state.

She also argued that after meeting with National Guard and Border Patrol, “they could not make an effective case that having the National Guard presence there has assisted them in any meaningful way at dealing with any nefarious activity along the border.”

She said that the deployment of the National Guard was taking funding from other state needs, listing infrastructure and health care.

In a statement announcing her decision Tuesday, Lujan Grisham rejected President Donald Trump’s claim that there’s a national security crisis at the US southern border.

She vowed that “New Mexico will not take part in the president’s charade of border fear-mongering by misusing our diligent National Guard troops.”

“We will deploy our men and women in uniform only where there is a need, and where their presence can make a genuine difference in ensuring public safety and an easing of the humanitarian concerns at our southern border,” Lujan Grisham said Tuesday.

The governor also ordered National Guard troops from six states — Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Wisconsin — to “return to their home states immediately.” According to the governor’s office, there are 118 total National Guard troops deployed in New Mexico.

She did, however, direct 11 to 15 National Guard personnel to remain in the southwestern part of the state to help with humanitarian needs.

“I recognize and appreciate the legitimate concerns of residents and officials in southwestern New Mexico, particularly Hidalgo County, who have asked for our assistance, as migrants and asylum-seekers continue to appear at their doorstep,” she said.

Half a dozen state police officers will also be temporarily deployed to Hidalgo County to help the local law enforcement.

The New Mexico National Guard said Wednesday that it was carrying out Lujan Grisham’s orders, preparing to remove most troops except for a small number needed for “support requirements.”

“Under the governor’s direction, New Mexico National Guard leaders have begun demobilization operations to withdraw the majority of its troops from the southwest border, with the exception of troops in southwestern New Mexico counties where troops will remain in place to assist with the ongoing support requirements,” the Guard said in a statement. “Maj. Gen. Kenneth Nava, the adjutant general of New Mexico, and his staff are working on retrograde operations for other support state’s National Guard troops.”

Lujan Grisham has long been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policies since her time serving in Congress and as chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She argued Wednesday that “the President should lead by removing himself from this political, angry, racist rhetoric” and “lean in and help us with real border security.”

Last April, Trump ordered the deployment of National Guard forces to help secure the border. There are about 2,200 National Guardsmen assigned to that mission, which is scheduled to end in September. There are also 2,300 active duty troops deployed to the border, with over 3,000 additional active duty troops to join.

Several governors have canceled or refused the deployment of their National Guard troops in response to the Trump administration’s family separations policy.

Lujan Grisham told reporters Wednesday she has not been in communication with the White House about the new deployment of active troops.