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Republican governors of Virginia, West Virginia, and South Carolina send troops to border

 June 1, 2023

Three more Republican governors pledged to bolster border security by sending National Guard soldiers or other state law enforcement officers from their states to the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday.

The governors of Virginia, West Virginia, and South Carolina decided to send aid in response to a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the Associated Press reported.

Border Crisis Response

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a rising leader in the Republican Party, announced his decision through an executive order to deploy 100 Virginia National Guard soldiers and 21 support personnel. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice also announced deployments shortly after.

This action brings the number of Republican-led states sending aid to at least eight since Abbott's appeal for assistance.

Youngkin expressed concern over the border crisis: "As leadership solutions at the federal level fall short, states are answering the call to secure our southern border, reduce the flow of fentanyl, combat human trafficking and address the humanitarian crisis."

Federal Versus State Response

President Joe Biden announced plans to dispatch 1,500 active-duty troops to the border in early May. These troops would join the 2,500 National Guard members already there, mainly serving administrative roles to allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to focus on fieldwork.

However, the deployments from Virginia and other Republican-led states specifically support Texas' Operation Lone Star.

The operation, a distinct initiative from the federal government's border efforts, was launched by Abbott in 2021 and criticized the Biden administration's approach to illegal immigration.

Despite criticism regarding its effectiveness and implementation, Abbott's request for aid has received responses from multiple states.

Funding and Implementation

Funding for this aid comes through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a national mutual aid agreement at the state level. Virginia and South Carolina governors joined others in Austin recently to discuss border policy solutions.

According to a press release from McMaster, South Carolina is currently planning its deployment strategy with a goal of initiation by July 1. Justice of West Virginia has authorized up to 50 National Guard soldiers and airmen to be deployed for 30 days.

The operation in Virginia will be under a military commander during the 30-day deployment, as per Youngkin's executive order. This sidesteps the authority of any local civilian entities. The operation's cost is estimated at $3.1 million.

Political Implications and Criticism

Youngkin, a former private equity executive, is frequently mentioned as a potential 2024 presidential contender. However, he recently stated that he has no plans to launch a bid this year.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president, is among other governors, including those from Mississippi, Iowa, Tennessee, and Nebraska, who have announced similar plans following Abbott's request.

In recent years, such deployments from GOP-led states have been a common response to criticize the Biden administration's handling of border security.

Despite this state-led effort, U.S. Customs and Border Protection noted that it has no role in National Guard deployments by individual states, including Texas.

The decision to send National Guard troops has elicited mixed feelings in Virginia. While some Republicans have praised Youngkin's commitment to border security, Democrats have criticized the move as unnecessary, insincere, or politically motivated.