South Carolina Governor Planning National Guard Deployment to Assist Texas Border Mission

South Carolina Governor Planning National Guard Deployment to Assist Texas Border Mission
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks at the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on June 19, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/File Photo via Reuters)

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is the latest Republican governor to announce he will send some of his state’s National Guard troops to the U.S. southern border.

On Wednesday, McMaster announced a plan to deploy troops to Texas, where fellow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been gathering resources to block illegal border crossings from Mexico.

“At the request of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, I have directed the deployment of South Carolina National Guard troops to Texas to help hold the line on the Southern border,” McMaster said. “The safety and security of South Carolinians require that we stop the drug cartels, criminals, and terrorists from entering our country to peddle their poison.”

McMaster’s announcement came on the same day Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Republican governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, announced they would send 100 and 50 of their states’ National Guard troops to the border, respectively. The South Carolina National Guard border deployment is still in the planning phase, with the exact number of troops yet to be determined. McMaster’s office said he is hoping to have a plan ready in the coming weeks, with a goal for South Carolina’s troops to arrive in Texas by July 1.

States Backing Abbott

With his Wednesday announcement, McMaster joined a growing list of Republican governors who have pledged to send troops to assist Abbott.

These state-level troop deployments come amid the end of federal Title 42 authorities on May 11. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, U.S. officials passed Title 42 to rapidly turn away and expel illegal immigrants under public health justifications.

As Title 42 came to an end, Abbott began using his state’s National Guard and police resources to set up razor wire fences and other barriers along their border with Mexico, and to physically block and turn back people attempting illegal crossings between official ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border. Abbott reached out to his fellow governors for help and, on May 16, 24 Republican governors signed a letter of support for Abbott’s border control mission.

Since singing the May 16 support letter, several Republican governors have pledged specific resources.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was among the first Republican governors to pledge specific military and law enforcement resources to Abbott’s border security mission. On May 16, he announced Florida would send 800 National Guard soldiers, 200 Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers, 20 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, and 20 Emergency Management personnel to Texas. DeSantis also pledged five fixed-wing aircraft, two mobile command vehicles, 17 unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), and 10 watercraft.

On May 17, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced an unspecified number of troops from the Mississippi National Guard’s 112th Military Police Battalion would deploy to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents along the southwest border.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced on May 24 that he had authorized the deployment of 100 Tennessee National Guard troops to the border. Lee said these troops would patrol and provide an added security presence at the border, help staff outposts, and assist in road and route clearance, barrier placement, and debris removal.

On May 24, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen also announced he would send 10 Nebraska state troopers to Texas to assist Abbott’s border security mission.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has also announced she will send 100 Iowa National Guard troops and 30 Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers to Texas. In a Tuesday press statement, Reynolds said the 100 National Guard troops would deploy for 30 days in August followed by a 30-day deployment of the DPS officers in September.

Post-Title 42 Federal Response

In the days before Title 42 ended, the Biden administration authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 U.S. military personnel to assist U.S. Border Patrol for up to 90 days.

While Abbott has been using troops at the state level to physically block illegal border crossings and redirect migrants to legal ports of entry, the Biden administration’s federal troop deployment is more focused on providing background support to the existing border authorities. In a May 2 press conference, Pentagon press secretary Gen. Pat Ryder said troops being deployed for the federal border mission would not directly participate in law enforcement activities, but would assist border officials with ground-based detection and monitoring, data entry, and warehouse support “until [Customs and Border Protection] can address these needs through contracted support.”

The Biden administration has taken other measures to disincentivize illegal border crossings at the policy level.

Before the end of Title 42, the Biden administration implemented a policy (pdf) disqualifying immigrants from applying for asylum in the United States if they didn’t first seek protection in countries they passed through on their way to the United States.

The Biden administration has also developed a parole program that allows immigrants to enter and work in the United States for up to two years. The rule states that those who still ignore the border and illegally cross will be returned and disqualified from future entry under the program.