RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Governor Ralph Northam says he’s recalling members of the state’s National Guard from the U.S.-Mexico border because he disagrees with a federal policy of separating immigrant children from their families.
Northam made the announcement Tuesday, saying he would not devote resources that could support an “inhumane policy.”
“When Virginia deployed these resources to the border, we expected that they would play a role in preventing criminals, drug runners and other threats to our security from crossing into the United States — not supporting a policy of arresting families and separating children from their parents,” Northam said.
The Democratic governor said he had ordered four crewmembers and a helicopter to return to Virginia from Arizona. The crew was assisting the Arizona National Guard in surveillance operations on the border as part of a 90-day mission.
“Virginia benefits from the important work of securing our border and we have a responsibility to contribute to that mission. However, we also have a responsibility to stand up to policies or actions that run afoul of the values that define us as Americans. Today I spoke with the Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard and ordered him to withdraw four soldiers and one helicopter from Arizona until the federal government ends its enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy that separates children from their parents.
“When Virginia deployed these resources to the border, we expected that they would play a role in preventing criminals, drug runners and other threats to our security from crossing into the United States—not supporting a policy of arresting families and separating children from their parents.
“Let me be clear—we are ready to return and contribute to the real work of keeping our nation safe. But as long as the Trump administration continues to enforce this inhumane policy, Virginia will not devote any resource to border enforcement actions that could actively or tacitly support it. I urge President Trump and leaders in Washington to turn away from this zero-tolerance policy and come to the table on the real immigration reform this nation needs.”
President Donald Trump has defended his administration’s border-protection policies in the face of rising national outrage over the forced separation of migrant children from their parents. Calling for tough action against illegal immigration, Trump declared the U.S. “will not be a migrant camp” on his watch.
Immigrant children are being held in fenced cages, separately from parents who are being prosecuted under the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings.
Northam said he would be willing to return troops to the border if the policy were repealed.
Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan also announced Tuesday that he was recalling Natural Guard members stationed at the border. Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday reversed a decision to send a National Guard helicopter.