Border Troops California

Associated Press

STANDING FIRM — California Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses his decision to withdraw several hundred National Guard troops from the nation’s southern border and changing their mission during a Capitol news conference Monday in Sacramento.

SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he’s withdrawing most of the state’s National Guard troops on the Mexico border because he won’t participate in the Trump administration’s “absurd theatrics” on border security.

Still, he acknowledged some troops were doing good work fighting drug crime and said he plans to allow 100 of the roughly 360 state troops now deployed to keep working with the federal government.

“I’m trying to acknowledge there are some legitimate con­cerns but I’m not going to play into the hype and the politics,” he told reporters before signing an executive order changing the troops’ mission.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown agreed in April to deploy up to 400 troops to the border in re­sponse to a request from the Trump administration made to four border states. Brown made it clear then that California troops couldn’t aid in immigration en­force­ment, but Newsom said there’s been a “gray area” in their duties.

Maj. Gen. David Baldwin of the California National Guard said the  troops have not participated in immigration detention but some are conducting camera sur­veillance that could inadvertently aid in immigration enforcement.

Newsom’s rebuke of Re­pub­lic­an President Donald Trump’s ad­min­istration came on the eve of Newsom’s first state of the state address as governor of the nation’s most populous state and frequent foil to Washington. In announcing his decision to with­draw troops, the governor rat­cheted up his rhetoric against the president.

“This whole thing is the theater of the absurd and California has had enough,” he said.

The Trump administration hasn’t commented. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence con­duc­ted a meet­ing Monday on bor­der sec­ur­ity with sheriffs from around the coun­try. Sheriff Donny Young­blood of Kern County was in attendance, according to the White House.

The drawdown of California’s troops will begin immediately but may not be completed until March 31, when the state’s cur­rent agreement with the federal gov­ern­ment is set to end.

Newsom has reassigned about 110 of the troops to beef up Cal­if­ornia’s fire preparation ef­forts ahead of the next wildfire seas­on and to expand the guard’s coun­terdrug task force program. The expansion requires approval from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Newsom made clear during his cam­paign that he did not support the use of California Guard troops at the border. He took action about a month into his gov­ern­orship because he wanted to re­sponsibly review the issue, he said.

He initially wanted to pull all of California’s troops back but said he was convinced by Guard of­fi­cials that good work is being done related to combating drug trafficking.

If the Trump administration does not agree to Newsom’s new terms “we’ll bring the rest back,” he said.

Newsom’s move came on the heels of a decision by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat, to pull back her state’s troops from the border.

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