Far from the nation's southern border, two major Wisconsin politicians got into a fight this week over border security, specifically, the Trump administration's plan to send National Guard troops to help defend it.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker endorsed the action, while Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin opposed it and called upon Walker to reject the initiative. The two fired their missives by U.S. mail.
On Friday, April 6, Defense secretary James Mattis authorized up to 4,000 National Guard troops to deploy to the U.S. border with Mexico to support the Department of Homeland Security border security mission. Troops began deploying after the announcement of the authorization, the Defense Department stated.
In a joint statement, Mattis and DHS secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen said DHS worked closely with border-state governors and identified security vulnerabilities the National Guard could address.
"DoD and DHS are committed to using every lever of power to support the men and women of law enforcement defending our nation's sovereignty and protecting the American people," Mattis and Nielsen said.
President Donald Trump authorized the National Guard deployment, with the affected governors' approval. In a presidential memorandum April 4, he said a "drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border" was threatening national security.
Pocan: Just say no
After the announcement, Pocan sent a letter to Walker, urging him to reject Trump's plan and to refuse to send any National Guard members from Wisconsin.
"The men and women serving in Wisconsin's National Guard are dedicated and honorable public servants and they should be treated accordingly," Pocan said. "Wisconsin Guardsmen and women uphold a delicate balance between their service to our state and country and their duties at home, including their families, jobs and other responsibilities. They should only be called upon to leave behind their jobs and families under truly serious and necessary circumstances. The current situation doesn't even come close to meeting that standard."
Pocan said there are now historically low border crossings, and that Trump isn't offering a solution to any alleged threat that the country may face.
"Instead, he is continuing to serve his personal folly at the U.S. border with Mexico," he said. "Our service members in Wisconsin should not be used as pawns while President Trump attempts to rally his base after Congress has repeatedly rejected his demands to build a border wall."
Walker responded in kind, saying he supported the president and that the illegal flow of drugs across the southern border is a threat to Wisconsin.
"Let me be clear: the southern border of the United States of America is not secure," Walker said. "One of the most fundamental responsibilities of our federal government is to protect our borders and shores. Sadly, through several administrations, the federal government has failed in this fundamental responsibility."
Walker said he had spoken over the years with many state and federal leaders about border security, including several governors from southern border states.
"They explained the concerns they have about the many individuals crossing the border who they believe are connected to terrorist organizations or to areas of the world that harbor members of these organizations," he said. "They spoke of the volume of illegal drugs, human trafficking, and the movement of illegal firearms into our country."
Walker said past presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, deployed the National Guard to the country's southern border to help fight those bringing illegal drugs into America.
"As governor, I want to ensure the safety of all of our citizens, and I want to reduce access to illegal drugs as part of a comprehensive strategy in dealing with opioid and illegal drug addiction," he wrote. "Therefore, I welcome President Donald Trump's aggressive actions to secure our nation's southern border."
Aggressive letter writing
Pocan fired back another letter, suggesting there were political motivations behind Trump's "aggressive actions" and Walker's support of them.
"Gov. Walker, let me be clear: arrests at the southern border of the U.S. are at a historic low," Pocan wrote. "However, both you and President Trump are refusing to accept the facts and are instead twisting the narrative for political purposes to rally the Republican base. President Trump is resorting to desperate, last ditch efforts to shore up his political support after he couldn't get Congress to fully fund his border wall request, much in the same way you sold out Wisconsin to Foxconn for nearly $4.5 billion after failing to fulfill your 2010 pledge to create 250,000 jobs in one, four-year term."
Failure seems to attract failure, Pocan wrote.
"President Trump is not sending troops to the southern border to stop the flow of drugs from Mexico," he wrote. "It is clear that his goal is to apprehend migrants, many of whom are children fleeing violence in their home countries. Sending members of the Wisconsin National Guard to militarize the border against unarmed men, women, and children is absurd. Further, you will cause undue harm to the families of Wisconsin National Guard members as your actions are only being done for political purposes."
Pocan said most drugs are not smuggled across the border by migrants that National Guard troops could apprehend.
"Second, if you truly wanted to solve Wisconsin's opioid crisis, you should sign Wisconsin onto lawsuits like those that other states are leading against the nation's top opioid manufacturers," he wrote. "Gov. Walker, your support of President Trump's plan for border security is wrong for Wisconsin and you should reverse course on this decision immediately."
According to the defense department, Mattis authorized the use of Title 32 duty status and DoD funds for up to 4,000 National Guard personnel to support DHS's southern border security mission while under the command and control of their respective governors through Sept. 30.
Title 32 status is full-time duty other than inactive duty performed by a member of the National Guard; it allows the governor, with the approval of the president or the secretary of defense, to order a member to duty for operational homeland defense activities.
The Department of Defense said the troops will not perform law enforcement activities or interact with migrants or other individuals detained by DHS without approval from Mattis, according to a DoD memo. Arming will be limited to circumstances that might require self-defense, according to the Department of Defense.
The National Guard's efforts will include aviation, engineering, surveillance, communications, vehicle maintenance and logistical support, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said in a news briefing April 5.
Richard Moore is the author of The New Bossism of the American Left and can be reached at www.rmmoore1.com.