Youngkin deploys 100 Virginia National Guard troops for border enforcement in Texas

As governor points to federal failures, Democrats call deployment a political stunt

By: - May 31, 2023 10:05 pm

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Sarah Vogelsong / Virginia Mercury)

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is sending 100 Virginia National Guard troops and 21 support personnel to help with border security in Texas, according to a Wednesday announcement from Youngkin’s office.

The governor’s office portrayed the move as stepping up to help with an issue the federal government has failed to address, but Virginia Democrats criticized it as a wasteful political ploy as Youngkin continues to consider a possible presidential run.

In a news release, Youngkin said he was ordering the deployment of state resources in response to a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who convened a group of Republican governors in Austin earlier this month to discuss how other states could help with Texas’ Operation Lone Star border initiative.

“The ongoing border crisis facing our nation has turned every state into a border state,” Youngkin 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.”

The governor’s office said the deployment is expected to cost $3.1 million.

In an executive directive, Youngkin indicated Virginia’s resources will help Texas bolster its “deter and repel strategy.”

“One of the key tactics under the ‘deter and repel’ strategy is the rapid deployment of personnel to erect physical barriers and demonstrate a physical presence to impede border crossings and prevent the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people into Texas and the United States,” Youngkin wrote.

The order specifies Virginia’s personnel will be “equipped with weapons, ammunition, body armor, protective masks and night vision and other support devices” and will “remain subject to military command” rather than being under control of civilian local governments. 

The troops are expected to deploy to Texas in July, but the timeframe hasn’t been finalized and the mission hadn’t been assigned to a particular unit as of Wednesday, according to the Virginia National Guard.

“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,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the adjutant general of Virginia who oversees the state National Guard.

Youngkin indicated additional resources are needed at the border due to the recent expiration of a pandemic-era immigration rule known as Title 42, which allowed federal authorities to quickly turn away asylum seekers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the Associated Press, border officials have said there was not a dramatic spike in border crossings immediately after Title 42 lapsed.

Youngkin didn’t make illegal immigration a major theme of his 2021 campaign for governor. But like other Republican leaders, he has become an increasingly vocal critic of the federal government’s approach to border enforcement under President Joe Biden. Youngkin’s border message typically focuses on the flow of fentanyl and other drugs as opposed to sweeping criticisms of people crossing the border illegally.

A few weeks ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s seeking the GOP nomination for president in 2024, announced he was sending 800 Florida National Guard soldiers and a litany of other state resources to help Texas with border security. 

After Youngkin announced the deployment of Virginia resources to Texas, several Democratic lawmakers and candidates mocked the move on social media. Several other Republican governors, including West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, have announced similar deployments.

Youngkin for President has officially jumped the shark – our VA National Guard troops shouldn’t be used to further presidential ambitions much less fight a MAGA culture war in Texas of all places,” Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said on Twitter. “Never thought I would see my state so compromised.”

In 2018, former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced he was pulling Virginia National Guard resources from the southern border in response to the Trump administration’s controversial family separation policy.


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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.