Michigan GOP to Whitmer: Send Michigan National Guard to Southern Border

LANSING — Republican leaders in the state House and Senate want Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to deploy the Michigan National Guard to the country’s southern border to help deter illegal immigration, and they’re calling for an $8 million budget allocation to do so.

Thursday’s request from House Minority Leader Matt Hall and Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt came one week after the pair flew down to Eagle Pass, Texas, to visit the country’s southern border for an event hosted by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“After being on the front lines and seeing the challenges,” it’s clear more help is needed, said Nesbitt, a Porter Township Republican.

Eagle Pass has become a flashpoint for conservatives nationwide as they continue to rally around Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican feuding with the Biden administration  on immigration enforcement. A handful of GOP governors have already deployed their own state’s National Guard to the border including Arkansas, Virginia and North Dakota. 

“When the federal government refuses to enforce our immigration laws or defend our border, then it becomes a state’s issue,” said Hall, R-Richland Township.

Hall and Nesbitt’s funding request is unlikely to advance in the Legislature, which after Tuesday special elections is firmly back in the hands of Democrats, who have not taken up other GOP immigration proposals this year or last.

Stacey LaRouche, press secretary for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, said in a statement sent to Bridge Michigan the governor is serious about both immigration and border security but that “the American people want real solutions.”

“Immigration is a serious, national challenge that we’ve been struggling with for decades,” said LaRouche, noting Whitmer sent National Guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico border under both the Trump and Biden administrations and “met with our National Guard soldiers on the front lines at the border.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said in a statement that guardsmen would answer “the call to support every federal request for military support to the Southwest Border.” 

The request from Nesbitt and Hall is not a federal request, however.

Republicans have sought to make immigration a major issue in this year’s presidential election. In a recent Grand Rapids speech, former President Donald Trump bashed President Joe Biden’s policies, while Democrats have blamed Trump for blowing up a bipartisan border deal that aimed to boost security. 

Trump and other Republicans have highlighted a series of recent events in Michigan, including an undocumented immigrant who shot and killed his girlfriend in Grand Rapids, and “transnational gang” break-ins in metro Detroit.

The GOP funding request appears unusual. In-state National Guard use is paid for by the state itself, while the federal government foots the bill for deployments to elsewhere in the country.

Hall spokesperson Jerry Ward said he believed it was unlikely Biden would approve funds for sending troops to the southern border — especially as he and Abbott remain at odds over how best to handle enforcement — making it appropriate for the state to fund the National Guard effort.

Republicans have criticized the Whitmer administration’s “newcomer rental subsidy” program for refugees, and her budget proposal to use $8 million to fund legal aid for asylum seekers. 

That $8 million could be used to fund the National Guard deployment instead, Ward said. 

Jeff Wiggins, Nesbitt’s spokesperson, was less definitive about where he thinks the National Guard funding should come from.

“There are many places in the governor’s proposed budget where we feel the taxpayer’s money would be better spent,” Wiggins said. “Whether Democrats think securing the border is a top priority is up to them.”

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