Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp says he will aid Texas governor’s border standoff with Biden

By Jeff Amy, The Associated Press

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday he will send more of his state’s National Guard soldiers to aid Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to control illegal crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border, as fellow Republican Abbott pursues a showdown with the Biden administration over immigration enforcement.

Kemp said he will send a team of 15 to 20 guard members to build a forward command post for Texas guard members. The relatively modest announcement followed two days of sharply partisan debate at the Georgia Capitol in which Kemp and Republican lawmakers repeatedly denounced Democratic President Joe Biden for trouble at the border.

“If the Biden administration continues to fail the American people, we have no choice, no choice but to step in,” Kemp said.

Democrats denounced the moves as election-year grandstanding, especially after Donald Trump and other Republicans torpedoed a border security plan developed in the U.S. Senate by negotiators including Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. Georgia Senate Democratic Whip Harold Jones II, of Augusta, called the effort “politics for politics’ sake” in a Monday debate.

Kemp first deployed troops to the border in 2019, and 29 guard members remain deployed performing missions that include aerial surveillance.

Kemp was one of 13 Republican governors who joined Abbott at Eagle Pass, Texas, on Feb. 4. Abbott has been locked in a standoff with the Biden administration after the state began denying access to U.S. Border Patrol agents at a park along the Rio Grande in the Texas border town.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday that his state’s National Guard will also coordinate with Texas officials and identify volunteers who can respond to requests from help from the Lone Star State. Lawmakers in at least two other GOP-led states, Oklahoma and Tennessee, have introduced resolutions in recent weeks backing calls to send more National Guard troops to support Abbott.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last month he would send hundreds of additional guard members. That state has sent more than 1,000 guard members, state troopers and other officers to the Texas border since last May, officials said.

“There are a lot of states that are stepping up, a lot of Republican governors that are stepping up to offer assistance, because they, like me, believe we just have to do this,” Kemp said. We have a president that will not act.”

Kemp, who has a history of conflict with former President Donald Trump, continues to keep his distance from the Republican frontrunner while backing other Republicans and opposing Biden. He made clear Tuesday that what he wants is a return to Trump’s specific border policies, echoing his party’s national claims that Biden needs no help from Congress to control the border.

Both chambers of Georgia’s Republican-led Legislature pushed through identically worded resolutions condemning Biden and saying they back border efforts by Kemp. The Georgia Senate voted 31-15 for its resolution Monday, while the House approved its version 98-71 on Tuesday.

The pointed resolutions were accompanied by Republicans characterizing anyone who crosses the border illegally as a criminal, even those seeking asylum, and concluding many are drug traffickers or potential terrorists.

Republicans made clear that the resolution was messaging to outline partisan differences as all Georgia lawmakers face election.

“We’re not going to pass a bill today that is going to move the needle in a large way,” Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch, a Dahlonega Republican, said Monday. “What we are going to do today is take a position on this issue.”

Jeff Amy, The Associated Press

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