Can Oregon Reject President's Request For National Guard Border Help?

Apr 5, 2018
Originally published on April 6, 2018 12:33 pm

UPDATE (April 6, 8:05 a.m. PT) — President Donald Trump issued a proclamation this week directing the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to work with state governors to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump has said his goal is to increase border security. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, was quick to respond:

“If @realDonaldTrump asks me to deploy Oregon Guard troops to the Mexico border, I’ll say no,” Brown tweeted. 

The social media dust-up raised a question of whether states have the ability to reject such a federal request. And, in fact, governors such as Brown do have some power to say no.

Trump’s proclamation activates National Guard troops under U.S. code known as Title 32, or "Full-Time National Guard Duty." This allows governors to place National Guard troops on full-time duty if they choose, with the OK from the President. Under the statute, troops would continue to operate under the command of the state, though funding would come from the federal government.

That's very different from a Title 10 order, which the governor likely could not reject depending on the nature of the request. 

Mieke Eoyang, vice president of the National Security Program at Third Way and a former professional staff member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said a Title 10 order would activate Oregon's National Guard as part of the federal military.

"That’s something that’s controlled by the president of the United States. That’s usually when troops are, say, sent to a war zone for a federal mission," Eoyang said. "Governors have very little control over whether or not the president can call the National Guard in those circumstances.”

The governor does have some authority if something called a Title 10 "Voluntary Order to Active Duty" was applied. Troops would still need the consent of the governor in that scenario.

Still, with the Title 10 activation off the table, Brown’s response to the deployment is at least partially a political response as much as a policy decision. She's running for re-election and has been positioning herself as an anti-Trump candidate on everything from cannabis to immigration.

Just last month, Brown declared alcohol and substance abuse a public health crisis. At a press conference, she cast her declaration as a direct contrast to moves by the federal government, which she said criminalized addiction rather than treating it.

Brown’s response to Trump’s latest proclamation struck a similar posture.

"As Commander of Oregon’s Guard, I’m deeply troubled by Trump’s plan to militarize our border,” Brown said in her tweet. "There’s been no outreach by the President or federal officials, and I have no intention of allowing Oregon’s guard troops to be used to distract from his troubles in Washington."

Oregon National Guard troops are regularly deployed around the world. Currently, there are federally deployed troops in the Middle East, said Christopher Ingersoll, a spokesman for the Oregon National Guard. Two units are doing tours in Afghanistan, according to a spokesperson with the governor's office.

It wouldn't be unheard of for Oregon troops to get deployed to the southern U.S. border: 414 Oregon troops participated in Operation Jump Start in states along the southwestern U.S. border between 2006 and 2008. National Guard troops aided Border Patrol in that effort to stop illegal immigration.

Ingersoll says Oregon troops have engaged in armed missions along the border before.

This story has been corrected — A spokesperson for the Oregon National Guard previously stated guardsmen have not engaged in armed operations on the Southern border. That’s not true. Armed members of the Oregon National Guard participated in Operation Jump Start.

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