SAN DIEGO (CBSLA/CBS News) — California has rejected terms of the federal government’s initial plans for sending National Guard troops to the border because the work is considered too closely tied to immigration, two U.S. officials told The Associated Press.
Gov. Jerry Brown elicited rare and effusive praise from President Donald Trump last week for pledging 400 troops to the Guard’s third large-scale border mission since 2006. But the Democratic governor conditioned his commitment on troops having nothing to do with immigration enforcement, even in a supporting role.
Brown’s announcement last week did not address what specific jobs the California Guard would and would not do and how state officials would distinguish work related to immigration from other aspects of border enforcement, such as fighting criminal gangs and drug and gun smuggling.
Brown’s offer of troops for the mission that Trump wants up to 4,000 troops to perform is still in place. But state authorities told federal officials late last week that the California Guard will not perform tasks in an initial rollout planned for all four border states, according to officials with knowledge of the talks who spoke condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Those jobs include fixing and maintaining vehicles, using remote-control surveillance cameras to report suspicious activity to U.S. border patrol agents, operating radios and providing “mission support,” which can include clerical work, buying gas and handling payroll, the officials said. California National Guard members have done such work in previous border deployments.
Talks are ongoing and the federal government has yet to publicly respond to Brown’s demand that troops avoid immigration enforcement or the state’s position on avoiding the specific jobs proposed, the officials said.
While talks are still ongoing, some local community groups such as the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) praised the initial response from the state and called for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be banished from California permanently.
“Ironically, the media’s sensationalist focus on California will continue to propel a growing consensus that ICE itself should be kicked out of the state, entirely,” said NDLON director Pablo Alvarado. “ICE is a rogue federal police force, that spreads fear like a virus in order to justify it’s [sic] own existence.”
Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) also applauded Brown and said the National Guard would be better utilized to “curtail the flow of high-powered assault weapons from California into Mexico and combat Russian drug cartel operations in California”.
“The fact is, there is no massive influx of migrants coming into California,” de Leon said. “Our National Guard should be focused on what they do best, helping Americans recover from natural disasters, but I’m confident Governor Brown will not use our National Guard to harass or tear apart immigrant families in California.”
Brown last week characterized his decision to contribute troops as a welcome infusion of federally-funded support to fight transnational criminal gangs and drug and firearms smugglers. According to one U.S. official, the California Guard has suggested assigning about 40 troops to marijuana eradication across the state.
Talks between U.S. and California officials about the duties the California troops would perform soured Friday and over the weekend after state authorities told them they would not participate in the initial tasks proposed for California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, the U.S. officials said.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)