In a reversal, Republican Governor Charlie Baker said Monday that he will not send the Massachusetts National Guard to the Mexican border to assist in what he called the Trump administration’s “cruel and inhumane” policy separating migrant children from their families.
The change of heart by Baker came after his administration had agreed in recent weeks to deploy a UH-72 Lakota helicopter and two military analysts to the border, where they would operate with members of the Arizona and New Mexico National Guards.
The deployment was to take place before the end of June, according to the State House News Service. But Baker told reporters on Monday that the Massachusetts National Guard, which he leads as the state’s chief executive, won’t be leaving for the Southwest after all.
“They’re not going to the border,” he said.
Baker said he was stopping the deployment — and will not allow other units to deploy to the Mexican border — because the administration is currently separating migrant children from their families when they reach the United States. The policy has drawn widespread condemnation, though President Trump and his administration have sought to cast blame on Democrats, arguing they’re simply enforcing the law.
Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over six weeks in April and May, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new ‘‘zero-tolerance’’ policy.
“It’s cruel and inhumane, and I told the National Guard to hold steady and to not go down to the border — period,’’ Baker said. “So we won’t be supporting that initiative unless they change the policy.”
Baker said he recognized the importance of the control over the nation’s borders, but the current approach is not supportable.
“Border security is important. No one disputes that. But separating kids from their families is not,’’ Baker said. “They should change their policy. I’m hopeful with the voices that are coming out at this point and making that case that they’ll consider alternatives to deal with border security.”
Hundreds of children wait in Border Patrol facility in Texas
Baker wasn’t the only governor to push back against the practice of separating children from their parents when apprehended at the US-Mexico border.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, issued an executive order banning use of state resources to support separating a child from his parent or legal guardian because of a violation of immigration laws. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also vowed Monday not to deploy National Guard resources to the border.
“We will not be complicit in a political agenda that governs by fear and division,” he said in a statement.
But as a Republican, Baker’s comments drew attention nationally.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday she had not seen them specifically, when asked at a press briefing.
“But I would tell him that he should call every member of Congress, particularly those in his own state, and ask them to fix the laws,” Sanders said. “There’s only one body here that gets to create legislation, and it’s Congress.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez said Baker should have never offered our “state’s resources to enforce Donald Trump’s inhumane immigration policy in the first place.”
“Trump’s actions at our borders make it clear that we cannot trust his administration, now or ever,” Gonzalez said in a prepared statement. “It isn’t enough for Charlie Baker to say that he won’t send our resources to the border to help Trump ‘today.’ Governor Baker should be clear that Massachusetts will never be a partner to Donald Trump in enforcing his racist immigration policy.”
In a tweet, Robert K. Massie, another Democrat running for governor, said that Baker’s decision was “too little, too late.”
“Why did you make this decision in the first place?” he wrote.John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Reach Matt Stout at matt.
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