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Immigration

GOP Reps Urge Pennsylvania Governor to Deploy National Guard to Address Border Crisis

Migrants outside a makeshift encampment in McAllen, Texas, May 15, 2019. (Loren Elliott/Reuters)

A group of Pennsylvania lawmakers led by Representative John Joyce (R., Pa.) sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf Thursday urging him to dispatch the commonwealth’s National Guard units to help address the overwhelming influx of asylum seekers arriving at the southern border.

Joyce and his fellow Republican lawmakers were moved to write the letter after hearing Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan testify Wednesday about the extent of the crisis at the border and the need for increased manpower to address it.

“Our country is currently facing a security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border. In April, more than 109,000 undocumented immigrants crossed the border. Around 98,000 of those 109,000 migrants were apprehended between ports of entry,” the lawmakers write.

“It is our position that Pennsylvania should lend to the president as many National Guard Troops as possible until the crisis is resolved,” their letter goes on to say. “However, given your statement from July 19, 2018 expressing that you would not honor a request from President Trump to send the National Guard to the border, we wanted to write to you in order to ensure that is not still the case.”

Wolf announced in June 2018 that Pennsylvania would not deploy its National Guard troops to the border if asked to do so out of opposition to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration-enforcement policy, which resulted in the separation of migrant families.

“While Pennsylvania proudly sent troops to help Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the last year to assist with disaster relief and Governor Wolf believes we need to protect our borders from real threats, he opposes state resources being used to further President Trump’s policy of separating young children from their parents,” Wolf’s office said in a statement at the time.

The letter’s signatories — Pennsylvania Republicans Joyce, Guy Reschenthaler , Lloyd Smucker, Scott Perry, and Mike Kelly — go on to argue that Wolf should extend the same help he “proudly” offered in the wake of recent natural disasters to address the border crisis.

Joyce said in a statement accompanying the letter that he witnessed firsthand the effects that a lack of adequate resources has had on Border Patrol agents and migrants alike during a recent trip to the border.

“Border Patrol agents are spending far too much time on humanitarian and administrative tasks, which is hindering their ability to apprehend dangerous individuals such as drug smugglers and cartel members,” Joyce said in a statement. “Pennsylvania’s National Guard could provide Border Patrol agents with the support necessary to free them up to spend more time catching persons of interest.”

Joyce went on to say that Congress must ultimately address the crisis through legislation, but that immediate action must be taken to prevent the further collapse of border security in the meantime.

Update 3:37p.m.: Governor Wolf’s office accused Joyce and his fellow signatories of baselessly demonizing asylum-seekers for political gain and argued a National Guard deployment is unnecessary in a statement provided to National Review Thursday afternoon:

There is no crisis at the border that the federal government cannot handle. This is hyperbole to further a political agenda that seeks to demonize peaceful asylum seekers, many of whom are children, elderly and women. Further, ahead of the worst storm and flooding season for the commonwealth, it would be irresponsible to preemptively send PA troops to the border when so many federal resources are already available. This is especially true given the lack of federal resources readily available to states for storm and flooding recovery. We are surprised these congressmen seem more concerned about a border thousands of miles away than keeping PA guardsman close to home where they could be needed.

As we said last year, the federal government has a request, Governor Wolf would evaluate it like any other request for assistance. But Governor Wolf has no plans to send troops away from their homes and families just to further a political goal. PA Guard troops will be prioritized for needs at home or states facing real natural disasters or emergencies.

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