Tag Archives: Governors

Why Are Republican Governors Sending National Guard to the Border?

So, governors are doing what? Over the last month, 8 Republican state governors have sent (or said they’ll send) armed personnel to the Texas-Mexico border.

Who are these “armed personnel”? It differs state to state. Arizona, South Dakota, Iowa and Arkansas are sending National Guard troops, while Ohio, Nebraska and Florida are sending their Highway Patrol troopers or other state law enforcement agents. Texas has sent both.

But wait. Only two of those states border Mexico. When he announced his National Guard deployment, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he hoped the move would help “reduce the adverse impact of illegal immigration on Arkansas.” But states like Arkansas and Iowa are affected minimally by unauthorized immigration. If it helps to explain why all these Republican governors are taking action, it should be noted that some are facing reelection and need to lock down the Trump wing of their party’s base, while more than one is eying a potential presidential run in a few years.

How did this all start? In early March, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he’d send 500 members of the Texas National Guard to the border; later, in May, he announced hundreds more from the state’s Department of Public Safety. Then, in early June, Abbott and Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey sent a letter to all 48 other states requesting reinforcements.

How bad is the border problem? In a press conference in May, Abbott claimed that Biden’s “open-border policies” had led to an increase in fentanyl crossing the border, as well as unauthorized crossings by migrants. (Fentanyl seizures along the southern border have been rising since 2016.) This year, Customs and Border Protection has already crossed the 20-year watermark for arrests on the border. In the first half of 2021, Border Patrol apprehended over 900,000 people, more than in the entirety of 2019 during the last significant uptick in migration. But more apprehensions does not necessarily mean there are more individuals crossing into the U.S. (more on that later).

Can officers from Nebraska or Iowa actually arrest unauthorized immigrants in another state? It remains unclear. State police and National Guard—from any state, under any orders—have zero jurisdiction to enforce federal immigration policy. Only CBP (on the border) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (in the interior) can do that. So there’s a strong legal argument that a Florida Highway Patrol officer taking someone into custody for crossing the border illegally could be guilty of false arrest or unlawful detention.

The National Guard has been sent to the border before, right? Yes, and their troops have essentially done busy work. In 2018, Arizona National Guard members deployed on the border were literally tasked with mucking out manure from the stables that held Border Patrol’s horses. At other times, they’ve helped train local law enforcement or erect barriers. When Ohio’s governor sent Highway Patrol to the border this week, he said they would assist in “border surveillance” efforts.

What’s different now? There’s one big difference: In the past, the federal government has commanded National Guard troops to the border—not just under President Donald Trump but also Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and even Joe Biden. This time, however, it’s individual state governors sending them.

Do National Guard members report to their governor, or the president? Both, actually. State National Guard members have two commanders: their governors and, above that, the U.S. president.

So who’s paying for this? Normally, when Washington requests National Guard members at the border, Washington pays. Otherwise, state taxpayers are on the line for funding their National Guard and law enforcement like highway patrol. Texas has offered to reimburse at least some states who send law enforcement through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a preexisting resource-sharing agreement between states. But also, in a bizarre and unprecedented turn of events, a billionaire Republican megadonor from Tennessee has paid for some of the deployment. Willis Johnson, through the Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation, donated $ 1 million directly to the state of South Dakota to fund National Guard troops on the border.

Is that even allowed? A state lawmaker says it’s legal, but security experts have called the moved unethical and dangerous. “You certainly don’t want our national security priorities up to the highest bidder,” Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight told the Washington Post.

OK. But why is this all happening in the first place? Governors Abott and Doucey might genuinely feel that their states are in crisis. But yes, there are politics: The Republican Party’s midterm strategy is clearly going to be hammering Biden on his, in their words, “open-border policies.” Positioning truckloads of cops and National Guard on the border certainly helps create the appearance of crisis.

So, is there a crisis, or not? Immigration advocates like to say that “crisis” is a political term—partisans use it when it’s useful. Right now, we are seeing a higher number than we’ve seen in the last 20 years of CBP “apprehensions”—i.e., people who CBP officers have come across on the border and detained. And people are crossing in higher numbers on parts of the border unused to heavy traffic, too. Specifically, Texas’s Rio Grande Valley has become a much more popular location to cross the border than it has been before. This puts a lot of strain on unprepared local resources.

Why are more people crossing the border? It might sound confusing, but actually they’re not. Even though apprehensions are way up, the actual number of unique individuals crossing the border is believed to be much lower. Not everyone who crosses the border gets caught or apprehended, but many of the people who attempt to cross the border try and get caught multiple times (CBP calls this “recidivism”). And experts suggest we may be seeing the highest-ever recidivism rate this year.

Why are there so many repeat crossers right now? The simple answer is Title 42. That’s an obscure public-health measure that the Trump administration used to shut the border to asylum-seekers when the Covid pandemic started. Biden has kept Title 42 mostly in place. Before that, people seeking asylum in the U.S. were generally permitted to remain in the country (often in detention) as they awaited the outcome of their asylum case in court. But under Title 42, all of them have been apprehended and either returned to Mexico or summarily “expelled” to their home country without any legal proceedings. Thousands of the people returned to Mexico have decided simply to try to cross again.

So the border isn’t “open”? Like Trump, Biden has kept the door almost entirely closed on asylum, with only a sliver of people making it in.

What’s all the ruckus from Republicans about then? While recidivism accounts for a significant portion of the high number of apprehensions, even when you account for repeat crossings, there are many more people trying to cross the border at this moment than any time in the past decade besides 2019. So it is an increase, just not an unprecedented one—especially when compared to the far greater numbers of annual apprehensions made in the late ’90s and early 2000s.

Why are more people coming to cross the border? Is that because of Biden? Biden took office with a more welcoming rhetoric towards migrants, and that may very well have encouraged some people to attempt to cross the border. But the current uptick in the number of people arriving actually began months before Biden became president, and there are, of course, many factors: Multiple hurricanes ravaged Central America in November; the Covid pandemic has intensified poverty and gangs’ efforts at extortion; cartel violence in Mexico is at record-high levels; and political crisis in Haiti has erupted in street violence, to name a few of the “root causes.”

How will this all end? Eventually, the National Guard members will be sent home. It’s unclear when exactly that will be. Some that Trump deployed in 2020 are still at the border. The Guard sent by the federal government will likely be recalled as soon as the number of people crossing goes down. Increases in migration tend to be seasonal, and as we get to the hottest months of summer, it will likely decrease. Also, Biden is expected to phase out Title 42 over the coming weeks and months, which will allow for many waiting at the border to enter the country lawfully. As for the additional state officers sent to the border, the decision for when they will go home will be made by the Republican governors who sent them.

‘We don’t like bullies, egomaniacs or jerks’: Allen West crashes Texas governor’s race

‘We don’t like bullies, egomaniacs or jerks’: Allen West crashes Texas governor’s race

Even for a pol known for chaos and controversy, Allen West had a doozy of a first week as a Texas gubernatorial candidate.

Top state Republicans called on him to quit his post immediately as state GOP chair Tuesday, citing a conflict of interest with his campaign (he refused). He called the party’s vice chair “a cancer” on Wednesday (she’s a cancer survivor). Then West committed a Texas-sized error by heading Friday to Alaska for a joint Texas-Alaska GOP fundraiser bearing a title that strikes at Lone Star pride: “THE HEART OF ALASKA IS BIGGER THAN TEXAS.”

West’s bid for governor is a long shot: He moved to Texas only in early 2015 after serving a single term as a Florida tea party congressman. Gov. Greg Abbott appears to be in solid shape, with high approval ratings among GOP primary voters and a stunning $ 55 million in the bank.

But with his no-holds-barred style, West stands to complicate Abbott’s reelection campaign — which some Republicans view as a precursor to a 2024 presidential bid by the governor.

“Texans won’t agree with the event being billed as ‘the heart of Alaska is bigger than Texas,’ but Allen West has proven he has never understood our state,” Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak said. “We don’t like bullies, egomaniacs or jerks, and he is all three.”

In his brief time as a member of Congress, West gained national notoriety for his caustic rhetoric, including comparing Democrats to communists and Nazis. And he showed a knack for raising huge amounts of money. After losing his bid for a second term in 2012, West left Florida to lead the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas, suggesting in a news release that he was focusing “on policy, not politics.”

But many insiders expected West would run again for political office, speculation that intensified when he won election as Texas GOP chair in July 2020. West downplayed the talk even as he organized an unprecedented anti-Covid-lockdown rally targeting the incumbent governor of the party he nominally chaired.

With Abbott in such a commanding position — he has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump — West’s many critics in the Texas GOP think West himself might be using the governor’s race as a steppingstone for a presidential bid in 2024. After all, they ask, why is he fundraising in Fairbanks, Alaska?

“On day four of Allen West’s farcical campaign for governor of Texas, he finds himself 4,000 miles away in Alaska. Maybe he’s already running for president as scripture ordained?” said Mackowiak, the first signatory on a Tuesday letter from 18 county GOP chairs who called on West to quit his post as state party chair because of his “outrageous conflict of interest” in running for statewide office as a sitting party official.

West declined to be interviewed for this story. A West adviser, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the Alaska GOP fundraiser’s title was just a “good-natured jab” from a state that has a complex about Texas. The adviser dismissed the week’s drama as a case of the establishment rallying to protect the incumbent governor.

West’s last day as party chair is Sunday.

Though polling shows Abbott is popular now, grassroots conservatives are still fuming over his initial decisions to lock down the state during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to West, former Texas state Sen. Don Huffines and political commentator Chad Prather are challenging Abbott from the right, hoping to capitalize on that frustration.

“Allen West’s hard-charging entry into the race will absolutely force Abbott to ramp up conservative-sounding rhetoric and posturing because he knows he’s in trouble with the GOP primary voters,” said JoAnn Fleming, executive director of the Grassroots America – We the People PAC. “Abbott also has zero relationship with longtime conservative grassroots movement leaders in Texas.”

Fleming said that Huffines‘ primary campaign has already “pushed Abbott into noticing the crisis at the southern border.” Abbott advisers deny that his border security focus is motivated by political considerations.

Derek Ryan, a Texas Republican data analyst, echoed Fleming in assuming that the governor’s primary opponents “are all hoping to peel away enough votes from Abbott to force him into a runoff, where only the most conservative of voters will participate and give them a shot at beating Abbott — similar to how [Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz was able to win in 2012” over David Dewhurst, the state’s former lieutenant governor.

West is the best-known of the Abbott challengers, but Abbott’s team privately welcomes his candidacy. One Abbott adviser, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said West and all the other primary candidates will just dilute the anti-Abbott vote.

“The more the merrier,” said the adviser. “They’re dividing up about a quarter of the Republican vote that always votes against the incumbent.”

West has higher name ID than Huffines, according to Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas Republican strategist, but “Abbott is very well known among Texas voters and will have a huge war chest to make use of during the campaign. It’s going to be very difficult for West and Huffines to get their name ID up significantly among GOP primary voters.”

A recent University of Texas/Dallas Morning News Poll shows that, in a head-to-head matchup against Huffines, Abbott beats him 77-13 percent with Republican voters. The survey, which was conducted late last month, didn’t poll West because he wasn’t an announced candidate.

The poll, however, indicated that Abbott is essentially tied in a theoretical general election matchup against actor Matthew McConaughey, and Texas Republicans are privately nervous about Abbott going too far right because it might cost him in a general election.

With West and the others in the race, Abbott cannot afford to moderate his stances. He called legislators back into special session Thursday with a grab bag of primary-friendly bills to restrict voting, take on social media companies that “censor” Texans and fight critical race theory in schools.

At the same time, West is feuding with members of his own party. Not only did some demand he quit his party post immediately, but he also engaged in a war of words with the party’s vice chair, Cat Parks, in a disagreement over a GOP scorecard rating lawmakers, according to the Texas insider publication Quorum Report.

When a Republican posted the scorecard without party approval, Parks wanted West to intervene, but he blasted her instead, via email, saying that she was doing “nothing but seek to advance yourself and never raised any funds for the Republican Party of Texas. It is obvious your goal is to protect the failures of certain Republican legislators.”

Parks struck back and essentially accused West of using his “position at the Republican Party of Texas in an attempt to advance” his own political brand.

“You Ma’am are a cancer, do not EVER email me again,” West emailed back, claiming Parks does “nothing but create chaos and confusion.”

Parks — a cancer survivor — then asked the question that Abbott’s team has privately posed about West: “If you cannot perform your duty to make a ruling as Chair of the RPT [Republican Party of Texas], how in the hell do you expect to serve as Governor?”

Though West’s pugilistic style is new to Texas, Florida Republicans remember it well.

Florida state Rep. Chip LaMarca, a top Republican in West’s former home in Broward County, said West was sometimes his own worst enemy.

“He said all the right things about being a patriotic American and veteran. Then he would list 70 of his colleagues being communists,” LaMarca said, calling West a principled conservative who refused to stop making counterproductive remarks.

“Allen was making them every day,” LaMarca said. “I’m scratching my head, wondering why he would run against the incumbent governor Trump endorsed and who is committed to building the border wall. What puts him in position to beat that guy?”

Author: Marc Caputo
Read more here >>> Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

Senate passes bill to curb Texas governor’s power to shut down

Senate passes bill to curb Texas governor’s power to shut down

The Texas Senate passed a constitutional amendment Tuesday that would substantially reign in the power of the governor during emergencies like this past year’s coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate action, which must still be approved by the House, would require the governor to call a special session in order to declare a state emergency that lasts more than 30 days. The special session would give lawmakers the chance to terminate or adjust executive actions taken by the governor, or pass new laws related to the disaster or emergency.

The Legislature did not meet last year, as the pandemic swept the state, so Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the largely unprecedented situation with executive orders and declarations spanning several months, citing the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.

Abbott issued what essentially amounted to a statewide shutdown order last year, and he kept in place some level of capacity limitations for businesses until early March of this year. In July, he mandated that Texans wear masks in public. He also used executive authority to lift other state regulations to help businesses struggling during the pandemic, such as allowing restaurants to sell groceries and mixed drinks to go.

But, many state lawmakers say the Legislature should be the government body to make decisions that affect businesses and livelihood of Texans.

“Early on, people understood [business closures] because they’re like, ‘we don’t know what this is,’” Sen. Brain Birdwell, R-Granbury, said on the Senate floor. But as the pandemic and business closures wore on, Birdwell said the anger grew as the mandates continued.

Birdwell said if the governor believes the situation is dire enough that businesses need to close, then he needs to get the Legislature involved.

The resolution now heads to the House, where another proposal to check executive powers received a hearing but has not yet made it out of committee.

Birdwell and others have said the law is not intended to be an indictment of Abbott’s handling of the pandemic. But both Democrats and Republicans have been critical of how the governor wielded his power throughout the crisis.

Over the past year, Democrats and some public health experts have urged the governor to issue tighter restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 or give authority to county officials to impose local measures on top of statewide rules. On Tuesday, some Democratic senators expressed concerns the Legislature would not be able to act quickly enough to take necessary steps to address a disaster.

“I don’t see this Legislature being able to convene fast enough to answer…in the kind of disasters I have seen and expect the state to see in the future,” said Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, who used to serve as Travis County judge.

Meanwhile, a priority bill filed in the House would carve out future pandemics from how the state responds to other disasters.

That bill, HB 3, has not yet made it out of committee, but would allow the governor to suspend state laws and require local jurisdictions to get approval from the secretary of state before altering voting procedures during a pandemic.

Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, previously told the Texas Tribune that the proposal was meant as a starting point to map out responses in the event of another pandemic.

“HB 3 was trying to set structures, predicting the disaster or the emergency,” Birdwell said. “What I did was set a baseline…It is impossible to predict the disaster.”

Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate and reopened businesses at 100% capacity in late February and has signaled he is aware lawmakers, even within his own party, are interested in curbing his power.

In his State of the State speech earlier this year, he promised to “continue working with the Legislature to find ways to navigate a pandemic while also allowing businesses to remain open.” In media appearances afterward, he signaled openness to reforming the governor’s emergency powers, telling the Tribune that his office is “offering up some legislation ourselves on ways to address this going forward.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the resolution.

Kate McGee
This article originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

Fed Up With Remote Learning, Governors Make a Push to Reopen Schools

Fed Up With Remote Learning, Governors Make a Push to Reopen Schools

“Every day is an eternity for a young person,” Mr. Inslee, a Democrat, said. “We just could not wait any further.”

In the weeks since most of the governors acted, nationwide cases have started to rise again, which could complicate the effort to get children back in school. Many school staff members have already been offered vaccines, which has reduced the resistance from teachers’ unions to reopening and, provided staff vaccination rates are high, will limit the opportunities for the virus to spread in schools.

Even so, in areas where cases are increasing sharply, like Michigan[1], some schools have had to revert to remote learning[2] temporarily because so many students were in quarantine.

But for the time being, at least, the moves by these governors have yielded significant results.

In Ohio, nearly half of all students were in districts that were fully remote at the beginning of 2021. By March 1, that number was down to 4 percent, and it has shrunk further in the weeks since.

In Washington, before Mr. Inslee issued his proclamation, the state’s largest district, Seattle Public Schools, was locked in a standoff with its teachers’ union over a reopening plan. Days after Mr. Inslee announced he would require districts to bring students back at least part time, the two sides reached an agreement for all preschool and elementary school students and some older students with disabilities to return by April 5.

And in Massachusetts, Mr. Baker’s move has spurred a sea change, with dozens of districts bringing students back to school for the first time since the pandemic began, and hundreds shifting from part-time to full-time schedules.

“It’s worked exceedingly well,” Mr. DeWine, a Republican, said of his decision to offer vaccines to Ohio districts that pledged to reopen. “We’ve got these kids back in school.”

References

  1. ^ like Michigan (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ revert to remote learning (www.freep.com)

Kate Taylor