RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has ordered the recall of four Virginia National Guard Soldiers and one helicopter from the U.S. – Mexico border.
“Virginia benefits from the important work of securing our border and we have a responsibility to contribute to that mission. However, we also have a responsibility to stand up to policies or actions that run afoul of the values that define us as Americans,” Governor Northam said in a statement. “Today I spoke with the Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard and ordered him to withdraw four soldiers and one helicopter from Arizona until the federal government ends its enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy that separates children from their parents.”
The governor, a Democrat, noted when Virginia deployed the soldiers, he expected they would “play a role in preventing criminals, drug runners and other threats to our security from crossing into the United States.”
He added he did not expect they would be “supporting a policy of arresting families and separating children from their parents.”
“We are ready to return and contribute to the real work of keeping our nation safe,” the governor continued. “But as long as the Trump administration continues to enforce this inhumane policy, Virginia will not devote any resource to border enforcement actions that could actively or tacitly support it.”
President Trump has accused Democrats of wanting migrants to “infest our country.”
“Democrats are the problem,” he wrote. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!” he wrote on Twitter.
Later, he declared during remarks at a hotel that he had no choice but to remove children from their parents at the border.
“When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away,” he said. “Now, we don’t have to prosecute them, but then we’re not prosecuting them for coming in illegally. That’s not good.”
Democrats and some Republicans have decried the practice as cruel, citing images of children being detained inside chain-link cages, some erected inside empty box stores.
But Trump and his aides have staunchly insisted they have no choice, instead blaming Democrats for not supporting legislation that would allow the practice to end.
That’s a false claim; The family separations are a result of the administration’s “no tolerance” immigration policy. But Trump reiterated the accusation on Tuesday.
Speaking at the small business event in Washington, the President said the separation policy is “a result of Democrat supported loopholes in our federal laws” that he said could be easily changed.
“These are crippling loopholes that cause family separation, which we don’t want,” Trump said.
At the same time, the President appeared to suggest the practice could act as a deterrent for future migrants considering entering the US with their children.
“We want a great country. We want a country with heart. But when people come up, they have to know they can’t get in,” he said. “Otherwise it’s never going to stop.”
And he declared the US needs to be secured, whether or not that seems politically palatable.
“You have to stand for something and you have to stand for safety and security of our country. We can’t let people pour in,” he said. “Maybe it’s politically correct or maybe it’s not. We’ve got to stop separation of the families, but politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety, that has to be protected.”
The President’s entrenchment amid a loud uproar comes amid a developing humanitarian — and political — crisis on the United States’ border with Mexico, where at least 2,000 children have been separated from their parents as a result of the administration’s policy.
Last month, the administration publicly announced its decision to charge every adult caught crossing the border illegally with federal crimes, as opposed to referring those with children mainly to immigration courts, as previous administrations did.
Because the government is charging the parents in the criminal justice system, children are separated from them with no clear procedure for their reunification aside from hotlines the parents can call to try to track their children down.
Trump’s hardline immigration rhetoric was a central piece of his campaign rallying cries, beginning with his campaign announcement speech in June 2015.