OAKLAND — Gov. Gavin Newsom is halting the California National Guard’s deployment at the U.S.-Mexico border, framing the pivot as the state’s latest repudiation of President Donald Trump.
Newsom has been sharply critical of Trump’s immigration policies, noting that the president’s proposed border wall is unpopular in California and assailing Trump’s State of the Union speech for “stoking fear and spreading hatred” by “manufacturing a border crisis.”
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He plans to offer a similar explanation during his State of the State address on Tuesday, when he will reject participating in what he calls “political theater” that “has been thrust on us by Washington.”
“This is our answer to the White House: No more division, xenophobia or nativism,” Newsom plans to say, according to prepared remarks.
Newsom has long held up California as a more rational alternative to Trump’s agenda. During a recent visit to San Diego, Newsom said “we should be celebrating” migrants who seek asylum legally and contrasted California’s efforts to assist them — including a $25 million outlay in his first budget proposal — with what he called Trump’s disingenuous narrative “that somehow these caravans are coming in to create havoc.”
Shortly after his election, Newsom cast doubt on the deployment, telling POLITICO in December that “I can’t see any” point to it. He appeared to have softened his opposition since then, telling reporters during the San Diego trip that the Guard’s work was “relevant in the context of what relates to drugs” and that “conditions on the border are changing.”
But Newsom is citing Trump’s recent move to send another 3,750 troops to the border as a reason to redeploy the Guard. He said Guard members will be shifted to helping with wildfire suppression and bolstering drug enforcement.
His decision comes days after another Democrat newly elected to lead a border state, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said she would pull most of her state’s National Guard personnel from the border in what she called a rejection of Trump’s “charade of border fearmongering.”
It also breaks with former Gov. Jerry Brown, Newsom’s predecessor, whose monthslong mobilization of the state’s Guard divided California Democrats given that it came at the request of — and with funding from — a widely loathed Trump administration.
When Brown announced last April that he would deploy some 400 personnel, he explicitly disassociated himself from Trump by saying the Guard would be focused on combating human trafficking, transnational gangs and drug smuggling — not any efforts to “enforce immigration laws or participate in the construction of any new border barrier.”
Those restrictions didn’t satisfy either party. They appeared to infuriate Trump, who complained in a series of tweets that “Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security” and charged that Brown was dispatching personnel to “do nothing.”
A few months into the deployment, as the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policies were fragmenting migrant families, Democratic state legislators called on Brown to recall Guard personnel or risk being “complicit” in “inhumane, disorganized and immoral” policies.
Now Newsom’s decision to halt the deployment seems certain to stoke more animosity between Newsom and Trump.
It follows the president extending an olive branch by saying that Newsom “was very respectful as to my point of view” when the two spoke recently about California’s recovery from a series of devastating wildfires. They met for the first time when Trump traveled to survey fire-scarred parts of the state in November.