State Politics

National Guard units head soon to the border. Will Idahoans be among them?

Gov. Butch Otter passes the Idaho National Guard guidon to Brig. Gen. Michael J. Garshak during a change of command ceremony Nov. 5, 2017 at Gowen Field.
Gov. Butch Otter passes the Idaho National Guard guidon to Brig. Gen. Michael J. Garshak during a change of command ceremony Nov. 5, 2017 at Gowen Field. U.S. Air National Guard

As Arizona and Texas announced plans Friday to deploy National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border, it was unclear whether Idaho Guardsmen will join them — should President Donald Trump also ask this state for help.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has not received a request for help from the White House, spokesman Jon Hanian said Friday afternoon.

“The bottom line is, if we get a presidential request, which we have not, the governor is going to want to try to assist,” Hanian said Friday.

Trump’s order invoked a federal law called Title 32, under which governors retain command and control of Guard members from their state, with the federal government paying for the deployment. That’s in contrast with another option under which Trump would become commander-in-chief of the state Guards and could order them to deploy.

Two of Idaho’s neighbors have criticized Trump’s proposal this week. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, tweeted Wednesday that if Trump asked her to “deploy Oregon Guard troops to the Mexico border, I’ll say no. As Commander of Oregon’s Guard, I’m deeply troubled by Trump’s plan to militarize our border.”

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, on Thursday said he wasn’t sure Trump’s plan was “appropriate,” according to The Nevada Independent. His spokeswoman repeated that comment Friday to the Associated Press.

But several other governors have spoken in favor of the plan. The governors of Iowa, Arkansas, New Mexico and South Dakota have all said they would support Trump’s request.

It appears for now that the Trump administration has only formally asked southwestern border states for help.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said about 150 Guard members would deploy next week. And the Texas National Guard said late Friday it will deploy 250 personnel to the border with Mexico within the next 72 hours.

Trump told reporters Thursday that he wants to send between 2,000 and 4,000 National Guard members to the border to help fight illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

That would be lower than the roughly 6,000 National Guard members that former President George W. Bush sent in 2006 during another border security operation, though more than the 1,200 Guard members President Barack Obama sent in 2010.

Department of Homeland Security officials have said Guard members could support Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement agencies. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said this week that guard members could “help look at the technology, the surveillance,” and that the department might ask for fleet mechanics. Federal law restricts the military from carrying out law enforcement duties.

From 2006 to 2008, the Guard fixed vehicles, maintained roads, repaired fences and performed ground surveillance. Its second mission in 2010 and 2011 involved more aerial surveillance and intelligence work.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now Trump’s energy secretary, also sent about 1,000 Guard members to the border in 2014 in response to a surge in the number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the Rio Grande, the river that separates the U.S. and Mexico in the state.

About 100 Guardsmen remain deployed as part of that existing state mission.