The Democratic nominee in New Mexico’s gubernatorial race called on Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to cancel the deployment of the state’s National Guard troops to the U.S. border on Wednesday, a day after Maryland’s governor pulled his state’s Guard troops from the border in New Mexico over mounting criticism of the federal government’s practice of separating undocumented parents from their children.
“Using New Mexico personnel and hard-earned taxpayer dollars to support an Administration that is tearing children from their parents is sickening,” U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of Albuquerque said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to stand up to policies that betray our most basic values.”
The National Guard debate continued on the same day President Donald Trump issued an executive order that he said would keep families together while maintaining his “zero tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigration at the border, a move reflecting the bipartisan unease about the federal government’s mission on the country’s southern frontier.
Trump had called for a greater military presence on the border in April, and Martinez and other governors around the country pledged National Guard members for the cause.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, on Tuesday ordered four Maryland National Guard members in the state to return home with their helicopter.
A spokesman for the New Mexico National Guard said Wednesday more than 60 soldiers are at the border performing support roles that include maintaining vehicles and heavy equipment as well as communications and training.
National Guard troops do not perform law enforcement duties such as detaining or arresting people. That is still up to the U.S. Border Patrol.
But, spokesman Joe Vigil said, “Performing these support roles helps free up Border Patrol agents to work out on the line, helping them accomplish their mission.”
New Mexico National Guard troops have long worked along the border as part of an anti-drug task force, he added.
The Governor’s Office had said up to 250 New Mexico National Guard troops may be involved in this latest operation.
And the Department of Defense said troops from Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky also are in New Mexico on the border.
According to the department, there are 400 National Guard personnel involved in the operation on the border in Arizona, 350 in California and 1,100 in Texas.
Indiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina also have sent troops to the border, according to the department.
And it says Maine and Wisconsin are scheduled to send troops to Arizona later this summer.
In all, Trump had said he wanted anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops to head to the border.
The Department of Defense had projected in mid-April the cost for 2,000 troops would reach around $182 million by the end of the fiscal year in September.
Lujan Grisham suggested National Guard resources are better spent elsewhere.
“Right now, New Mexicans are battling fires that are destroying thousands of acres of forest and threatening life and property,” she said. “Governor Martinez should immediately redeploy these limited resources to help protect dozens of communities across the state that are in danger of being destroyed.”
Also this week, Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker canceled plans to send National Guard personnel from his state to the border, according to WGBH-TV, a PBS affiliate in Boston.
Virginia pulled back its troops — four personnel with one helicopter — on Tuesday, too.
“When Virginia deployed these resources to the border, we expected that they would play a role in preventing criminals, drug runners and other threats from crossing into the United States,” Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “Not supporting a policy of arresting families and separating children from their parents.”