Politics & Government

Gov. Roy Cooper recalls NC National Guard in response to immigrant family separations

Gov. Roy Cooper
Gov. Roy Cooper cseward@newsobserver.com

Gov. Roy Cooper has recalled three members of the state National Guard from the southern border over the Trump administration policy of separating children from their migrant parents.

"The cruel policy of tearing children away from their parents requires a strong response, and I am recalling the three members of the North Carolina National Guard from the border," Cooper said in a statement.

Members of the NC National Guard had assisted at the southern border under Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama. The current deployment includes a helicopter and three National Guard members.

The U.S. Border Patrol released video of a brief tour they gave reporters inside a detention facility in McAllen, Texas, where it holds families arrested at the southern U.S. border. The video shows adult and children housed in cages.

The National Guard members were scheduled for a 120-day rotation that started June 1, said NC National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo.

"The mission was to support federal and state agencies with day and night aerial observation to enhance the customs and border security operations," Devivo said.

Governors in at least eight states, including Republicans in left-leaning states, are recalling National Guard troops or refusing to send them to the Mexican border over President Donald Trump's policy.

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The NC National Guard has been assisting with aerial patrols of the border every year since 2012, with the exception of last year, Devivo said.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory, the Republican Cooper defeated in 2016, called Cooper's move "a disgraceful action" that will "make us less safe."

"Shame on @RoyCooperNC for using our national guard troops as political pawns," McCrory said on Twitter. "Our troops have helped secure the border for many years and Cooper's disgraceful action will make us less safe."

Also on Tuesday, state Attorney General Josh Stein joined with 20 other Democratic attorneys general across the country calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop separating children from their families at the border.

"The president's family separation policy is an affront to American decency and the children’s humanity,” Stein said upon release of the letter to Sessions. “The administration must cease this cruelty immediately."

Stein described the practice as "cruel and dangerous," and at their core a violation of international, federal and state law, as well as judicial precedent.

The Trump administration adopted a "zero tolerance" policy to deal with Central American migrants who say they are fleeing violence. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security now refers all cases of illegal entry for prosecution.

About 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the border in April and May, according to Homeland Security.

President Trump continued his assertion that Democrats are to blame for children being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. He said that changes to immigration laws could be made quickly if they were willing to negotiate with him.

Staff writer Anne Blythe contributed

Bonner: 919-829-4821: @Lynn_Bonner