The National Guard is heading to the California-Mexico border next week in what marks the first deployment under California Gov. Jerry Brown’s deal with the Trump administration to beef up border security.
About 200 Guard members were expected to arrive at Camp Roberts in Central California Saturday for training before deploying to El Centro and San Diego in the middle of next week, Lt. Col. Thomas W. Keegan said in a statement.
“This mission will focus on combating transnational criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers,” Keegan said, adding that personnel will provide counter-drug surveillance, gather intelligence, monitor cameras and install and operate equipment.
Guard members will not enforce immigration laws, nor will they help construct a border wall during the deployment, which will run through September. Brown and federal officials agreed to those terms this month after Trump requested that the nation’s border governors increase security along the border.
“This will not be a mission to build a new wall,” Brown wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis. “It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.”
About 55 Guard members are already helping fight illegal drug trafficking, manufacturing and distribution along the border in California.
Trump is the third consecutive president to ask for National Guard assistance along the U.S.-Mexico border. President George W. Bush used assistance from the states to deploy 6,400 troops for a two-year period beginning in 2006, and President Barack Obama authorized 1,200 troops in 2010. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved the use of Guard troops in both instances, though he rejected one request from Bush in 2006, citing the need to keep service members available for potential wildfires or earthquakes.
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