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Utah governor will send small group of National Guard members, state troopers to Texas border

By Katie McKellar - Utah News Dispatch | Feb 9, 2024

Jay Janner, Austin American-Statesman via AP

A National Guard soldier guards Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.

On the heels of his visit to Texas last weekend with 14 other governors, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced he’ll be sending a small group of troop members to the southern border later this month.

The Republican governor’s office issued a news release Friday that on Feb. 26 he’ll send “five soldiers from the Utah National Guard engineer battalion to maintain military equipment on the southern border.”

That same day, he’ll also send one sergeant and four troopers from the Utah Highway Patrol’s Criminal Interdiction Team, which specializes in drug investigations. That UHP team will be deployed for 30 days, according to the governor’s office.

In total, 10 law enforcement and Utah National Guard members will be deployed.

“Open borders threaten our national security and if the president and Congress won’t solve the influx of people and drugs, states have to step up,” Cox said in a prepared statement. “Right now, Texas needs our help and we’re grateful to our National Guard members, state Troopers and their families for their willingness to serve and keep us safe.”

The UHP estimates the month-long deployment will cost nearly $100,000, and the two-week deployment of Utah National Guard members will cost about $50,000. The deployments will be funded with money from the governor’s office’s emergency fund, according to the news release.

Utah Republican Rep. John Curtis this week introduced a bill that would reimburse states for costs they incur helping secure the southern border.

Cox made his announcement after the Utah Department of Public Safety and the Utah National Guard received Emergency Management Assistance Compact requests from Texas.

Two days ago, Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said Utah should send troops to the Texas border to help with the chaotic situation. Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, an immigrant, pushed back, saying she didn’t doesn’t believe that should be Utah’s role.

However, Escamilla and Adams agreed that Congress and the White House should seek solutions to the nation’s immigration system.

Last month, Cox was among 25 GOP governors behind a letter supporting Texas and the state’s “constitutional right to self-defense” at the nation’s southern border.

Governors in other states including LouisianaWest Virginia and Indiana also announced plans Friday to send National Guard members to the Texas-Mexico border.

The Utah Democratic Party issued a news release Friday criticizing Cox for playing a part in “the MAGA Republican party’s ongoing political grandstanding on immigration.”

“This is just the latest in a long line of recent actions by Spencer Cox that prove that he is more interested in playing political games than getting important things done for the state of Utah,” said Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis in a prepared statement. “No matter how hard he tries to falsely justify his grandstanding through fear-mongering, the fact is that we have far more pressing issues facing our state that we should be devoting time, energy, and money to than posturing in an effort to please Donald Trump.”

Lewis said if “Cox and his Republican friends are so concerned about the border, they should be supporting the bipartisan proposal negotiated by President Biden and Senate Republicans.”

The plan to send Utahns to the border comes as the prospect of federal action on immigration looks especially bleak. A bipartisan deal months in the making, spearheaded by Republicans and including surprising concessions from Democrats, has fallen apart under pressure from former President Donald Trump, for whom chaos at the border is a major campaign point.

It’s not the first time Utah has sent troopers and National Guard members to help other states. In 2005, Utah sent troop members to Hurricane Katrina. In 2016, the state provided security at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. And since 2018, the Utah National Guard has sent 226 National Guard members to the border on various occasions, according to the governor’s office.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


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