Virginia Gov. Youngkin Deploys National Guard to Texas Border

Glenn Youngkin, the governor of the U.S. state of Virginia speaks to the media during a press event in Taipei, Taiwan April 25, 2023.

RICHMOND – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said Wednesday that he is deploying 100 National Guard troops to the U.S. border in Texas, heeding the call of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and following in the footsteps of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“The ongoing border crisis facing our nation has turned every state into a border state,” Youngkin (R) said in a news release. “As leadership solutions at the federal level fall short, states are answering the call to secure our southern border, reduce the flow of fentanyl, combat human trafficking and address the humanitarian crisis.”

Youngkin’s executive directive specifies that the 100 troops will be joined by 21 support personnel in a 30-day deployment, though the order is in effect for July through September. Democratic state legislators said they have been told by the administration that a one-month deployment will cost $3.1 million in state funds. Youngkin’s office confirmed that figure.

A Virginia governor last deployed the National Guard outside the state’s borders on Jan. 6, 2021, when then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) sent troops to the District of Columbia to help secure the U.S. Capitol against supporters of President Donald Trump staging a violent insurrection.

Abbott (R), who has deployed Texas National Guard troops and a variety of state assets along the state’s border with Mexico, issued a call on May 16 for other states to join in, citing a sharp rise in the flow of migrants as well as concerns about the trafficking of illegal drugs such as fentanyl. DeSantis (R) was quick to respond, announcing that he would send 800 National Guard troops as well as state law enforcement officers.

Slamming President Biden over conditions at the border and a surge of migrants has become a calling card of Republican presidential aspirants, including DeSantis. Youngkin is widely known to be positioning for a possible last-minute run after this Virginia state legislative elections this fall.

Democrats were quick to condemn his troop deployment.

“This is Youngkin’s latest entry in the Republican presidential beauty pageant,” said state Sen. Scott A. Surovell (D). “We’ll definitely be looking into the legality of this.”

Surovell accused the governor of wasting public money, saying that deploying the troops to stop refugees is not an effective way to combat the trafficking of fentanyl, which tends to be smuggled at ports or in tractor-trailers.

House Minority Leader Don L. Scott Jr. (D) said: “As a veteran, I’m really disturbed that he would use National Guardsmen for political theater to further his presidential ambitions. I’m disturbed that he would spend $3.1 million to send National Guardsmen from Virginia down without a specific and prescribed mission.”

Republicans applauded Youngkin’s move.

“I commend and support Governor Youngkin’s actions today in the strongest possible terms,” Virginia House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R) said in a statement, noting that “cartels smuggle their lethal poison into our country among the thousands of migrants who are trafficked across the border every day.”

Del. Tony O. Wilt (R), chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, said Youngkin’s action “will save lives, not only on the border, but in every community in Virginia.”

It is not yet clear which Guard unit will be called up and precisely when it will head to Texas.

“The Virginia National Guard is staffing the support request and has not assigned a unit to the mission at this time,” Guard spokesman A.A. “Cotton” Puryear said in an email to The Washington Post. “We expect the troops to deploy to Texas in July, but the exact time has not been finalized.”

The Guard members involved will receive less generous benefits because this is a state call up as opposed to a federal activation, Puryear acknowledged. Under the Virginia Code, state and local governments may offer a pay supplement to public employees called up for federal service to bring their base military pay up to the level they normally earn. That is not the case for a state deployment.

State and local governments also must provide a $20,000 death benefit for any employee killed in action, but only during a federal deployment.

Based on Texas’s request, Puryear said the Guard expects its personnel to “operate observation and listening posts focused on key terrain and avenues of approach.” Guard members will receive some training before deployment, plus additional “mission-specific” instruction once in Texas, he said.

The Youngkin administration said the deployment is in response to an Emergency Management Assistance Compact request from Texas, which allows the governor of one state to seek help from another. Abbott hosted Youngkin and eight other Republican governors in Texas on May 22 for a border security briefing.

“Just as we stand ready to assist our fellow Virginians in times of need, the Virginia National Guard is ready to provide assistance to other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact process and will provide requested capabilities to help our fellow Americans,” Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia, said in a written statement. “Our staff is in close contact with the Texas Military Department to determine the appropriate force package to give them the assistance they requested, and I am confident we will provide a highly-capable team able to make a positive impact on their mission.”

In remarks to reporters at an unrelated event Wednesday, Youngkin said the border crisis in Texas is a Virginia problem because the flow of illegal fentanyl leads to an average of five Virginia deaths every day. Youngkin said Texas has spent billions on border security initiatives, “and so this is our part in order to support the great work that Texas is doing now.”