In a sudden reversal, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration on Monday canceled its plan to send Massachusetts National Guard members and equipment to the southwestern U.S. border in light of the federal government’s “inhumane” practice of separating undocumented children from their families, the governor’s office said.
Baker announced on June 1 that he would send a UH-72 Lakota helicopter and two military analysts to pilot the chopper to the southwestern border by the end of the month in support of President Donald Trump’s mission to curb illegal border crossings and drug trafficking.
But in recent weeks the federal government’s practice of separating undocumented children from their parents when detained at the border has drawn bipartisan scorn and ignited a donnybrook between the White House and Congress. Baker, a Republican who did not support Trump, registered his disapproval Monday.
“Gov. Baker directed the National Guard not to send any assets or personnel to the Southwest border today because the federal government’s current actions are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children,” Baker Communications Director Lizzy Guyton said in a statement.
Baker’s office said Massachusetts has no personnel or assets participating in the border mission.
The flight crew had been expected to deploy by the end of June to work through September with the Arizona National Guard and the New Mexico National Guard, in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to provide air reconnaissance and track illegal activity along the border with Mexico.
In its daily email newsletter Monday, the White House said that the “harshest family separation policy is that too many Americans have been permanently separated from loved ones because of crime spilling across our border” and highlighted the need for more security along the border.
“Illegal immigration along our Southwest border surged 230 percent in April compared to last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security,” the White House wrote. “This statistic reveals the lack of an orderly and fair process to manage the escalating flow of illegal immigrants. That flawed system creates both a humanitarian and a national security crisis at our border.”
Trump in April ordered the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to deploy National Guard troops to the southern border to assist federal border agents, indicating at the time that he would like to see 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops called up.
Baker’s announcement that he would send the Massachusetts National Guard to assist at the border came while Democrats were kicking off their party convention in Worcester earlier this month. Jay Gonzalez, the gubernatorial candidate endorsed by that convention, visited the press riser at the DCU Center to say he would not have complied with the Pentagon’s request as Baker did.
“If Donald Trump’s Pentagon made that type of request to me I would not comply with it,” Gonzalez told reporters hours after the News Service first reported on the National Guard’s plans. “We need to stand up to what he’s doing and we’ve got a governor right now who doesn’t do it and on this issue he not only doesn’t stand up to him he helps him.”
On Sunday, Gonzalez circulated a petition to supporters calling on Baker to reconsider his decision and to instead withhold Massachusetts resources from the border mission.
“Governor Baker’s commitment of Massachusetts National Guard personnel and equipment might have been before the horrific family break-up policy was in full-swing, but it’s not too late for the Governor to do the right thing and withdraw support,” Gonzalez wrote in the email to supporters.
Bob Massie, another Democrat running for governor, said Monday afternoon that Baker’s decision to rescind the state’s support for the border mission was “too little, too late.”
The Baker administration downplayed its cooperation with the Trump administration’s border security efforts when it was announced, noting that the request for resources and personnel was relatively small and that Massachusetts has assisted with border operations for both Democrat and Republican presidents.
Massachusetts National Guardsmen were activated to support Operation Jump Start under President George W. Bush from 2006 to 2008 and Operation Phalanx under President Barack Obama.