California governor hedges on sending troops to border

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California Gov. Jerry Brown has been silent on President Donald Trump's call this week for National Guard troops to help protect the southern border with Mexico.

That contrasts with the Democratic governor's quick response when Trump's administration recently sued over the deep blue state's immigration policy days before the president journeyed to San Diego to view his border wall prototypes earlier this year. That was just the latest jousting in the escalating feud between the Trump administration and California, which has resisted the president at almost every turn on issues from marijuana policy to climate change.

Here are some of the questions and answers on relations between the Trump administration and California:

The president wants to send 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help federal authorities combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. It isn't clear how many he would seek from California. They would provide support but not go on patrols or make arrests. Republican governors in the other border states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas backed the deployment. Even Iowa's Republican governor offered to send National Guard troops from the Midwest. Democratic governors in Oregon and Montana have said they wouldn't send troops. 

The California Guard already has 55 employees helping fight drug trafficking, surveillance in the San Diego Harbor, repairing fences, roads and culverts, and analyzing criminal activity in cooperation with state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Brown has personally spoken with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other federal officials, but he hasn't publicly commented or made a decision. His office has instead referred questions to a spokesman for the California National Guard, which has said it needs more details. 

That's in contrast to Brown's sharp response last month when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued to block three California laws to protect immigrants who are in the country illegally, which Brown called "a political stunt." 

The National Guard says it can't respond until it has more information, including who would pay for the deployment, how long it would last, and what it is expected to accomplish. 

Brown's decision might depend on the mission: would California troops be fighting international drug smugglers, or helping block immigrants from crossing the border?

He may just be weighing the state's policy and waiting for those answers, says Claremont McKenna College political science professor Jack Pitney. "Trump's plan is pretty vague. It's possible at the end that Trump's request is somewhat reasonable," Pitney says. "In contrast to his 1970s persona as an eccentric, Jerry Brown is actually a pretty cautious warrior and he's probably just weighing the policy merits of this move."

Yes, on both sides, says San Jose State University political science professor says Larry Gerston. Trump is appealing to his conservative base, he says, not only on immigration but on issues as broad as gay rights and automobile emissions, all touchstones for California's liberal majority. "The list goes on and on and on and so the governor from his perspective has to ask himself `Why? Why should I be interested in cooperating when I'm getting nothing back from the federal government,"' he said. "So I do think that policy and politics come together here."
   Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the administration will "absolutely" move forward with other border states if California balks at providing National Guard troops.
 "We're working with states' governors right now to go through this process and we hope to have National Guard on the ground as soon as possible," she said Friday. "And we're going to continue to work with California and we're hopeful that they'll do the right thing and help protect our borders."