I have seen an article saying that the state national guard of North Dakota is preparing to send troops to the US Mexico border. Other states have done this too, I just pick North Dakota because it is by the opposite border.

This seems bizarre because of the system of federalism. If the US military did it I would not be surprised. But seeing a state National Guard on the other international border with Canada going down to Mexico is what it is. Why are states nowhere near Mexico sending troops? And doesn't Texas have enough to protect its border?


4 Answers 4


Because it is good politics for them. When you have states with a large number of people who are opposed to immigration it makes the politicians who send the troops look better. Because the governor/legislature are sending the national guard to the border those that oppose immigration are more likely to support them.

In the end it comes down to them wanting to try and make their supporters happy by appearing to do something about what they consider a problem at the border.

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    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 13:50

Joe W gets part of it, but to address the aspect about U.S. Federalism: National Guard members have the ability to accept voluntary assignments to various postings if the governor allows it.

For the individual guard member, this comes with a paycheck, accrual of paid time off, and other benefits in exactly the same way as an involuntary call-up would. For a fair number of people, this is a decent paying job.

In cases where there's a national voluntary mission they can sign on with, and the governor clears the mission for those members that volunteer, there's a number of incentives for troops to volunteer.

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    That is still the governor sending the national guard and not something they can do if the governor doesn't support sending troops to the border. Also I am not sure there are any cases of this happening as there would also need to be a reason for them to be called up and they can't just do this for no reason.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 15:55
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    There's degrees of 'sending.' The Governor authorizes the mission, yes, but it's not the same as the governor calling up and deploying the NG in an involuntary manner. As for examples of this happening, my own state of MA has NG troops on the border, but it's a voluntary deployment - no one in the MANG is required to go, but a handful have volunteered. The request for this came from the Trump White House, so as you said, it boils down to politics, but the Mexico/US border deployments are all voluntary, as far as I've seen. Governor's action here is necessary but insufficient to cause. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 16:06
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    While that might be true about giving induvial members a choice of being deployed or not the overall decision is still on the shoulders of the governor who is likely to make it for political reasons in this case.
    – Joe W
    Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 16:43
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    That's why I gave you credit for having that part of it? I'm not sure what the issue you'd like me to fix is. Commented Jul 7, 2021 at 17:08
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    @WilliamWalkerIII Maybe the objection is to "Joe W. gets part of it"? Starting with "To address the issue about federalism" would work just as well, allowing readers to decide on who gets partial credit. Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 5:25

TL;DR Because of Title 10 of US Legal Code

While it may be true that governors might themselves be sending guard members to help out fellow governors, the NATIONAL guard can be mobilized by either the state or federal government.

The official National Guard Fact Sheet gives several examples of situations where Federal deployment can take place, including this one, which may be applicable:

Air and Army National Guard. Air and Army National Guard can specifically be called into Federal service in case of invasion, rebellion, or inability to execute Federal law with active forces.

Legal Details

Three Methods of Deployment

From a writeup in the Atlantic:

There are essentially three ways a guardsman can be brought into an active status to perform a mission. One method is called “state active duty,” in which the governor activates state Guard members in support of a particular mission. The state must bear the cost, and the members are under the governor’s command.

Another method is when the federal government activates the Guard in what is called Title 10 status—that is what is meant by “federalizing” the Guard. The federal government pays, and activated Guard units are placed under the control of the secretary of defense and the president, with an active-duty military officer in the chain of command.

...the National Guard can be activated in a third way. Under Title 32 status, a guardsman is activated by and remains under the control of the governor, but is paid for by the federal government. This helps relieve the financial burden on the affected state.

From the article the OP linked to, it appears that the North Dakota case is the third way:

Mike Nowatzki, a spokesman for Gov. Doug Burgum, said the Department of the Army made the request through the National Guard Bureau.

“We have monitored the ongoing crisis at the southern border and have responded to the request by sending North Dakota National Guard Soldiers to support the efforts to secure our border,” the Republican governor said in a statement.

Nowatzki said the deployment is being funded by the federal government.

Title 10 Status

The "Title 10 status" referred to above comes from Title 10 § 246 of Federal Law:

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are—

(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and

(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

Disagreements Between DoD and State Governors

The ability of the Federal government to deploy the National Guard in a way contrary to a governor's wishes has sometimes led to litigation.

See for example this 1989 writeup in Air Force Magazine about some National Guard training deployments ordered by the DoD that state governors tried to prevent.

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    This is all very interesting, but it does not really address the question why North Dakota of all states mobilizes their national guard to operate as border patrol in Texas.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 8:06
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    Which of "invasion, rebellion, or inability to execute Federal law" has applied to this particular case? Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 13:08
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    The Federal Deployment seems wonky. The article says the Army made the request, then elsewhere it's Homeland Security, but it was the Governor's decision, and it's being paid for by some rich dude in Tennessee (which wouldn't be needed if the feds were doing it), and it's only states with Republican Govs. Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 13:25
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    @Philipp this answer makes the key point, overlooked in other answers, that the deployment is under federal authority, at the request of the federal Department of the Army, and therefore under federal command.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 14:15
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    @AnonymousCoward Depending upon political affiliation, I think many people would classify substantial unauthorized border crossings as "invasion". I'm not saying I agree with that classification, but I could easily see it being used as the justification. Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 17:16

The accepted answer is fairly cynical in that it fails to address actual real implications of people illegally being in the USA without the government knowing who or where they are. So here's an answer that considers that.

The thing about most countries, including the USA, is that movement within the country is not nearly as restrictive as movement across that country's borders. Even though the USA is "technically not a country" (Federalism), in the respect of ease of travel across its state borders, it acts like a singular country, in the sense that there are no manned border crossings at state borders (to my knowledge; if they are, they are not manned particularly well).

This means, once you enter the USA, you can basically move anywhere within the USA and nobody will ask questions, and this applies to anyone, even illegal immigrants. The theory being, if the country's borders are secure, then all the states' borders are internally secure. Meaning, if someone enters Texas illegally at the US-Mexico border, that person can, without much trouble, travel to and make a home in, North Dakota, if they so choose. North Dakota doesn't like that idea (apparently), so North Dakota is doing something about it.

Now, the question is, why is North Dakota protecting Texas's border, rather than its own? The other tactic North Dakota could take would be to set up checkpoints at entry points into North Dakota, and leave Texas on its own. To which I don't know the answer conclusively, but it's probably something like this: Strategically speaking (this makes sense if you've ever played a real-time strategy game), it makes a lot more sense to have a single maximum-security point than a series of disjoint lesser-security points. If each state protected their own borders, then they are not helping each other; If North Dakota protects itself, and Louisiana protects itself, then each state only has half(-ish) of the manpower protecting themselves, than if they both protected a single common entry point where they could double their manpower. Which is basically what they're doing by all grouping at the Southern border, instead of on each state border.

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    That isn't the issue here as there are plenty of people trying to cross the border legally as well. The issue here is why was the national guard sent when there is almost nothing that they can do to prevent people from crossing the border. All the national guard (or military) can do is provide support to other agencies at the border. militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/10/31/…
    – Joe W
    Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 17:26
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    This only works if ND has a big migrant problem. But they don't, do they? As the OP mentions, it's on the opposite side, and they can use more people anyway. Why would they spend all that money and disrupt lives to solve a non-existent problem? Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 3:34
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    @OwenReynolds I'm not sure about North Dakota specifically, but lots of states that are nowhere remotely close to the border with Mexico have large populations of people who entered the country illegally, the vast majority of whom originally entered the country across the Southern border. For example, Pew estimates 400k each in Georgia and Illinois, 725k in NY, 275k in VA, 325k in NC, 130k in TN, etc.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 6:18
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    As far as why North Dakota isn't restricting movement into their own state, it's illegal (not to mention extremely inconvenient and unpopular) for them to do so, as it is across state borders everywhere in the U.S. Freedom of movement across state borders has been considered by courts to be a Constitutionally-protected right since at least 1868.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 6:33
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    But are ND migrants a problem? Is the local news full of stories about problems they're causing? Last I heard Georgia was happy, for decades, having migrants come for cheap labor, even encouraging it. They have 400K, great! Commented Jul 9, 2021 at 13:52

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