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Governor defends decision to pull troops from border

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision to withdraw most New Mexico National Guard troops deployed on the state’s border with Mexico drew widespread national media coverage Wednesday.

And the Democratic governor did not mince words in defending her decision, announced just hours before President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening.

“We will not militarize the border,” Lujan Grisham told local reporters during a briefing in the Governor’s Office. “We will not use our assets, including the National Guard, in an inappropriate way.”

However, she also said her administration would not turn a blind eye to ranchers in southwestern New Mexico’s remote Bootheel region who have asked for help amid a recent influx of migrants from Central America.

In the past four months, more than 26 groups of 100 people or more, mostly parents with children and unaccompanied minors, have turned themselves in to agents at Antelope Wells, according to the Border Patrol.

To address residents’ concerns, Lujan Grisham called for road improvements, new vehicle barriers and better fencing in the Bootheel.

“I don’t believe that we should not be investing in border security,” Lujan Grisham said.

But the governor also accused the White House of stoking fears of some residents along the border.

“This isn’t new that those remote ranchers have some risk – they do, they absolutely do,” she said. “So where has Border Patrol been over the last two decades?”

She described the situation in Hidalgo County as a “humanitarian crisis” and said asylum-seekers have had their constitutional rights breached by the Trump administration at official ports of entry. She said that has led to more migrant groups crossing in remote areas.

In announcing her decision to withdraw most of the 118 National Guard members stationed on the border, Lujan Grisham said that 11 to 15 Guardsmen will remain in Hidalgo and Luna counties.

At the governor’s instruction, six New Mexico State Police officers will also be temporarily dispatched to help local law enforcement officers in Hidalgo County.

The National Guard troops were deployed to the border by former Gov. Susana Martinez last year at Trump’s request.

Meanwhile, Lujan Grisham also created waves by posting a new political ad Tuesday evening on social media that shows her running through several walls, including one she described as Trump’s border wall.

The ad was filmed during last year’s gubernatorial campaign but never aired.

“Why are we debating things that don’t work?” Lujan Grisham asked, referring to the border wall, in response to a question about the ad. “Why aren’t we having a fair, productive debate about the things that should and can and would work.”