Governor Glenn Youngkin has deployed 100 National Guard members as human rights advocates decry border ‘militarisation’.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin has announced that he will send soldiers to the United States border with Mexico, joining a growing list of Republican US state leaders to do so.
In a directive on Wednesday, Youngkin authorised the deployment of 100 members of the Virginia National Guard and 21 support personnel, contributing to a trend of border militarisation that has been decried by human rights groups.
“The ongoing border crisis facing our nation has turned every state into a border state,” Youngkin said in an accompanying press release. The governor explained that the move is a response to calls from Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott for states to send military personnel to the border.
The announcement comes as Republican lawmakers seek to crack down on immigration and draw attention to what they describe as the failed border policies of Democratic President Joe Biden.
While Biden has rolled back asylum access and kept some of the most restrictive immigration policies of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, Republicans have sought to portray the Democrat as overly lenient on immigration.
In early May, Biden sent 1,500 troops to the border to assist with administrative duties in anticipation of the end of Title 42, a policy enacted by the Trump administration that was used to restrict asylum access under the pretext of protecting public health.
Immigrant rights groups criticised that decision, saying that it was based on optics rather than substance. They also warned the deployment could make the border less safe for asylum seekers, who might have been fleeing warfare and violence.
The presence of armed forces “continues to perpetuate this idea that the border is an issue that can be resolved through enforcement, in this case the deployment of the military”, Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera at the time of Biden’s announcement.
Youngkin credited Wednesday’s decision to the need to combat drug smuggling and human trafficking at the border. Irregular border crossings declined in the immediate aftermath of Title 42’s expiration, though experts warn it is too early to know if this is a long-term trend.
Youngkin’s decision was applauded by Republican officials such as Congressman Bob Good, who praised the Virginia governor for his “leadership”.
Youngkin for President has officially jumped the shark – our VA National Guard troops shouldn’t be used to further presidential ambitions much less fight a MAGA culture war in Texas of all places – Never thought I would see my state so compromised pic.twitter.com/IyZnrqWH1e
— Senator Scott Surovell (@ssurovell) May 31, 2023
On Tuesday, Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds likewise approved the deployment of 100 National Guard troops to the border.
Neither Iowa nor Virginia is near the border with Mexico, and some have criticised those moves as politically motivated. Younkin is said to be mulling a run for the 2024 presidential election.
“Youngkin for President has officially jumped the shark,” Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell said on Twitter. Referencing an acronym for Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” (MAGA), Surovell decried what he considered a political manoeuvre on Youngkin’s part.
“Our VA National Guard troops shouldn’t be used to further presidential ambitions, much less fight a MAGA culture war in Texas of all places,” Surovell said.