Patrik Stollarz / AFP / Getty
Days after California Governor Jerry Brown accepted President Donald Trump’s offer of additional National Guard troops to secure the U.S. southern border, uncertainty remains as to what the troops would be doing when and if they are deployed.
Reports began emerging Monday afternoon that California had rejected initial federal government plans for what National Guard troops — sent under the president’s direction, and in coordination with the governor — would be doing in California.
President Trump declared on April 6 that he would send troops to the U.S. southern border in four states, but would work with the four border-state governors to do so. Last Week, Brown became the fourth to accept National Guard troops — but was very specific about not wanting them to patrol communities and enforce federal immigration law.
On Monday, the Associated Press reported that California had “rejected the federal government’s initial plans for National Guard troops to the border.”
State and federal officials sent conflicting messages.
Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Tyler Houlton wrote Monday afternoon:
Governor Brown has stated publicly that he shares our interest in securing our southern border. DHS and our federal partners are committed to working with the Governor to mobilize the California National Guard to assist DHS’ frontline personnel in our vital missions.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Ron Vitiello told Breitbart News in a joint CBP-Department of Defense-National Guard Bureau briefing that same afternoon that the troops were offered to California to support the El Centro and San Diego Border Patrol sectors.
The three officials holding the briefing were asked about the AP report.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and Robert Salesses said that the Department of Defense was supporting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and CBP. He then clarified that the California National Guard had indicated that it would not perform certain missions that the Border Patrol requested, as they “know them to be right now.” The request involved about 237 Guard members going to the El Centro and San Diego border sectors with specific missions. Salesses said that the California Guard would not perform those missions.
“We are in continuing dialogue, discussion with the California National Guard and we’ll work closely with Chief Vitiello to see if there’s other kinds of responses willing to accept — California would accept…” said Salesses.
Salesses said that the activities that Border Patrol had wanted the National Guard troops to participate in had involved operational support, including: “motor transport maintenance, radio communications, heavy equipment operations, some planning administrative, clerical kinds of responsibilities, and then operating some surveillance camera operators.”
Vitiello added that these activities were similar to those requested of National Guard troops in the other three border states. He said that federal authorities were grateful for the support that they have ,and that they would continue the discussion with California for future phases of the operation to “see if those fit better with sort of the results as we know them now.”
Brown’s office told Breitbart News later that afternoon that the Associated Press report was “inaccurate.” An update to that report introduced a statement from Lt. Colonel Tom Keegan that “the federal government has not yet responded and added that the next step is for the federal government to respond by signing the Memorandum of Agreement.”
Salesses was clear that the troops deployed to the border states “would not perform law enforcement functions” and would “not be placed in direct contact with personnel coming to the border.”
Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau Lt. General Daniel Hokanson reinforced Salesses’s message.
Officials holding the afternoon briefing stated that there are currently 900 National Guard troops deployed to the southern border between three states: Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. According to the three officials, there are not yet any troops on the southern border in California.
Vitiello later said that currently “the Governor has determined that what we’ve asked for so far is unsupportable,” but that they would look toward future iterations of the operation.
“We’ve got a signal from the governor that he’s not participating,” Vitiello said.
He mentioned adding capacity in CBP air and marine operations besides what the Guard would bring in aviation support. CBP is also looking for support at ports of entry.
While California may not participate in the current “level one” operation, Vitiello explained that the state may be interested in subsequent levels.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana