Feb 12, 2024 - News

Utah National Guard headed to southern border

Spencer Cox looks ahead.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks to members of the media after meeting with President Biden. Photo: Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is the latest GOP governor to announce plans to deploy National Guard troops and law enforcement to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Driving the news: Cox announced Friday that he will send five Utah National Guard soldiers to the southern border for two weeks beginning Feb. 26 to maintain military equipment.

  • Five members from a Utah Highway Patrol drug investigation team will join for a month.
  • The deployments are estimated to cost a combined $150,000 in taxpayer dollars. The amount will be pulled from the governor's emergency fund.

What they're saying: "Open borders threaten our national security, and if the president and Congress won't solve the influx of people and drugs, states have to step up," Cox said in a statement on Friday.

The big picture: As the showdown between the Biden administration and Texas over immigration enforcement and federal authority unfolds, border security has emerged as the GOP's focal point ahead of the 2024 elections.

  • Louisiana Republican Gov. Jeff Landry announced on Thursday that he would send 150 National Guard members to the southern border.
  • GOP governors in Florida and Indiana have also committed to sending National Guard members.

Context: Cox's announcement comes less than a week after he joined 14 GOP governors at the border city of Eagle Pass, Texas, in support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's controversial border initiative, Operation Lone Star.

Reality check: Operation Lone Star, a border enforcement program created by Abbott in 2021, has been criticized by National Guard troops and has faced scrutiny over its effectiveness.

Background: Cox, who has previously expressed support for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, is running for re-election in this year's gubernatorial race.

  • He faces two GOP challengers: Utah Republican Party Chair Carson Jorgensen and Blanding state Rep. Phil Lyman.

The other side: Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis in a statement accused Cox of "playing political games" and "fearmongering."

  • "We deserve a governor who is more focused on doing work for the people of Utah than building his own personal brand on the national stage or protecting his own political ambitions," she said.

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