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Baker Cancels National Guard Deployment To Border, Citing 'Inhumane' Treatment Of Children And Families

Immigration Separated Families
In this June 1, 2018, file photo, children hold signs during a demonstration in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Miramar, Fla. The Trump administration's move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has turned into a full-blown crisis in recent weeks, drawing denunciation from the United Nations, Roman Catholic bishops and countless humanitarian groups.
Wilfredo Lee/AP

Governor Charlie Baker is canceling the deployment of Massachusetts National Guard troops to the border in light of recent reports about the Trump Administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from families.

“Governor Baker directed the National Guard not to send any assets or personnel to the Southwest border today because the federal government’s current actions are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children,” said Baker communications director Lizzy Guyton in a statement sent to WGBH News.

State officials announced early in June that Massachusetts National Guard troops would be deployed to the border to support in security operations. One helicopter, aircrew, and military analysts from Massachusetts were set to head to the border at the end of June.

The crew was to “provide aviation reconnaissance to offer an additional tool for observation and tracking of unlawful activity in the region,” according to the Mass National Guard.

The cancellation comes amid increased scrutiny over the Trump Administration's practice of separating children from families at the border, in some cases detaining children in makeshift facilities and, in one facility in Texas, cages. The practice has been condemned by the United Nations, a coalition of Catholic bishops, and numerous public officials, including former First Lady Laura Bush.

Previously, when asked about the Trump Administration’s practice of separation of children and families on Boston Public Radio in May, Baker said he had “ a huge problem with that.”

The deployment was a response to a proclamation signed by President Trump in April calling on National Guard troops to assist in securing the border. The request was made by invoking a statute of U.S. law known as “Title 32,” which allows governors to review requests for National Guard troops and deploy at their own determination, and troops remain under state control. (A “Title 10,” request, on the other hand, is involuntary and troops operate under federal control.)

Other governors have pushed back. Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, said she would refuse to send troops to the border if asked, and Montana Governor Steve Bullock expressed reticence as well. Vermont Governor Phil Scott said in April that he “would not be eager” to send National Guard troops to the border, but a spokeswoman told WGBH News in a statement last week that the state had not received a specific request for assistance, and would “evaluate any such requests based on the needs and our available resources at that time.”

Democrat Jay Gonzalez, who is challenging Baker for the governor’s seat this year, also previously criticized the deployment.

"As governor, I would be a very different type of leader on this. I would be sending signals to Donald Trump that we are not supportive of his immigration approach and that we would do everything possible to stand up for the values and interests of the people of Massachusetts, and of our country," he told reporters earlier this month.

Congressman Joe Kennedy said on Boston Public Radio Monday he was not aware of the deployment, but opposed the Trump Administration’s practice of separating children from families.

“I don’t agree with this policy, I think it’s abhorrent, I think it’s immoral, I think it’s a rejection of our values,” he said. “The other side of this is we do have immigration laws, they have to be enforced.”

“I think we can try to strike the right balance here to ensure they are enforced humanely. I do draw a distinction between those who are forced to work within the system and the leaders that are creating it,” Kennedy continued.

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