While a few governors have said they oppose President Donald Trump’s plan to send up to 4,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico, Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s office said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach and that no such request has come in.
Ige spokeswoman Jodi Leong said in an email that the governor “will not speculate at this time.”
“The Hawaii National Guard has supported border security missions in the past under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” Ige, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday. “The Guard is currently committed to other deployments. Any additional requests would have to be considered in this context.”
Trump’s request for troops on the border has met with support and opposition even before formal requests have been made.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, tweeted early on that if Trump “asks me to deploy Oregon Guard troops to the Mexico border, I’ll say no.”
Governors normally control National Guard units in their states and in this case can reject a request for troops to be sent to the border under the terms of Trump’s plan, said Hawaii Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony.
Trump’s April 4 memo says the secretary of defense “shall request” use of National Guard personnel to assist in fulfilling the border mission under Title 32 of U.S. Code, which allows governors to place citizen soldiers in a full-time duty status and retain control over them.
The Mexico border duty — which has been performed before by Hawaii Army and Air Guard personnel — comes at a time when the Hawaii Army National Guard is preparing for the biggest deployments in a decade since close to 2,000 soldiers deployed to Kuwait for convoy duty into Iraq in 2008-09.
The state expects to deploy about 1,000 Guard soldiers from a variety of units to the Middle East and Europe over the next year. The first mobilization of about 100 soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter unit, is expected this month.
“Because of that, that could be a factor in terms of whether the (National) Guard Bureau would even reach out to us for border missions. It may or may not,” Anthony said, noting that no such request has been made of Hawaii.
The troops deploying to the Middle East and Europe will be federalized into temporary active duty under what’s known as Title 10 of the U.S. Code.
In other states
Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday he would accept federal funding for about 400 National Guard members to support enforcement on the southern border against gangs, illegal firearms and drug smugglers.
“But let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission. This will not be a mission to build a new wall,” Brown said in a letter to federal officials.
The Republican governors of border states Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas support the deployments. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said his state “welcomes this enhanced security.”
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said he would say no to such a request for troops, while Republican Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office said it would not be “an appropriate use” of Guard soldiers.
Hawaii, meanwhile, has sent National Guard troops to the southern border before.
In 2006-07, more than 200 Army and Air Guard personnel deployed to Tucson and Yuma, Ariz., to do border surveillance and engineering work.
Auredith Tumpap, then a Hawaii Army National Guard soldier, said in 2007 that a team was tasked with identifying people trying to cross the border illegally using infrared sensors at night.
In 2006, in response to requests for support enforcing federal immigration laws from border states, President George W. Bush announced the deployment of up to 6,000 National Guard troops along the southern border, according to the Congressional Research Service. From 2006-08, more than 30,000 Guard personnel participated in “Operation Jump Start.”
President Barack Obama in 2010 announced that up to 1,200 National Guard troops would be sent to the border to support border patrol efforts.
Hawaii Army National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopters and personnel flew missions in 2013 looking for drug smugglers along a portion of the 1,250 miles of Texas border with Mexico on the Rio Grande River.
Some of the Hawaii deployments to the border with Mexico were as short as two weeks. But other deployments lasted four to six months, Anthony said.
To fulfill requirements, the Army and Air Force reach out to the National Guard Bureau, which “knows what the capabilities are within the states and then says, (for example), we’d like to see Wyoming and New York take this particular deployment at this time,” Anthony said.
Trump authorized the National Guard, with the affected governors’ approval, to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection, saying a “drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border” is threatening national security.
The National Guard’s efforts will include aviation, engineering, surveillance, communications, vehicle maintenance and logistical support, the Pentagon said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.