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Editorial: Slick video, sound bite don’t help on the border

By all accounts, members of the New Mexico National Guard have been providing Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection officials a valuable service.

Our guardsmen have helped maintain the Border Patrol’s fleet of vehicles. They have helped CBP officers at the Santa Teresa port of entry with cargo inspections by unloading trucks. They’ve assisted the Border Patrol with firearms training. And they have provided air support.

And so Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is telling them to leave.

What?

Col. Jamison Herrera, director of the joint staff for the New Mexico National Guard, said last month that one of his team’s missions was to free up border agents to do their jobs. And there is no question their jobs have gotten harder as more groups of several hundred migrants reach New Mexico’s border with Mexico, while traffickers take advantage of the distraction to try to bring hundreds of pounds of drugs into the country. In a too-rare instance of government collaboration, the Border Patrol noted that “together with units from Arkansas and Kentucky, New Mexico National Guard helicopter crews have been patrolling vast areas of the border from Santa Teresa to Lordsburg. This expands our situational awareness and allows us to cover much more ground than we would be able to using our own assets.”

So while Lujan Grisham has been a clear and vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s border policies, which include a border wall at strategic places, it makes no sense for her to leave Border Patrol agents and rural New Mexicans pretty much hanging just to send a political message.

It’s no coincidence her decision to kick out the Guard was announced just hours before Trump’s State of the Union address in which his border policy took center stage. Or that she then quickly posted on social media an unused campaign video showing her crashing through walls.

The governor says she doesn’t want a militarized border. But the 118 Guard members along New Mexico’s border have not been involved in detaining or arresting people. They’ve been in support roles since being deployed by former Gov. Susana Martinez at Trump’s request last year.

Lujan Grisham had said she would make her decision on keeping/removing the Guard based on data. Members of both political parties say our Border Patrol and Border and Customs officers are short-handed and lack the resources to do their jobs. And the 11 to 15 Guardsmen and six additional New Mexico State Police officers the governor plans to leave to help with, in her words, the “humanitarian crisis” in areas such Antelope Wells in Hidalgo County, won’t make life much easier for the understaffed border agents, the frustrated border residents or the tired, sick and hungry border crossers who already have to wait hours to be bused to, then processed in, Lordsburg.

But like a clever political ad on social media, pulling the Guard sounds good.

Until you are among those on the ground dealing with its aftermath.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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