Gov. Doug Ducey won’t withdraw National Guard troops from the border even though he objects to President Trump’s policy of separating children from their families.
“I have been outspoken that I don’t want to see families separated at the border,” the governor said Wednesday following his first major campaign speech in his bid for reelection, Ducey said he is relying on his own experience with the state Department of Child Safety.
“We know that separating children from their families is not an ideal situation,” he said. “And my heart breaks for these kids.”
But Ducey made it clear he won’t follow the lead of governors in five other states who have either decided to yank their troops from the border or have reversed earlier commitments to send soldiers there.
“Because I’m a border governor,” he told Capitol Media Services when asked about keeping the 400 soldiers who already are there.
“The safety and security of Arizonans comes first for me,” Ducey continued. “And we can do that and keep families together.”
The Trump administration has faced extensive criticism for its policy of locking up everyone who crosses the southern border – including those who make a claim for asylum – a practice that results in them being separated from their children.
So extensive has been the pressure that the president on Wednesday, signed an order temporarily stopping family separation at the border, halting a policy he instituted earlier this year.
“It’s about keeping families together while ensuring we have a powerful border,” Trump said of his order, issued as the governor was answering questions about the policy. But the president said he was keeping his “zero tolerance” policy of arresting all border crossers, the policy that led to the whole crisis of family separation in the first place.
Ducey press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss was “encouraged” by the president’s order.
The governor, said he wants “to do the right thing” about people crossing the border illegally, referring to the recent surge of migrants.
“I believe the people who work for the United States government are good people,” he said. “And they want to do the right thing.”
But while Ducey said he’s in favor of keeping families together, he does not see that as connected to his decision to put — and keep — Guard soldiers on the border.
“I also want to be supportive of the Americans who are serving as border agents and in Customs and Border Protection,” the governor said.
“I think there’s a right way to do this and a humane way to do this,” he continued. “And I think that’s reflective of our American values.”
Ducey’s speech was largely a rehash of his philosophy of smaller government and a promise of no new taxes.
He also boasted of the new funds that have gone into K-12 education since he took office but said more needs to be done. And in the most specific pledge, Ducey vowed to increase public education spending above and beyond inflation and “veto any budget that doesn’t do so.”
Scarpinato said that means dollars above and beyond what his boss already has promised in new state dollars, including funding for an average 19 percent increase in teacher pay by 2020 and restoring $371 million that was taken in prior years – a lawsuit contends illegally – from a special account which funds things like computers, textbooks, buses and some capital needs.
But Ducey, in his speech, also took a slap at the organizers of the Invest in Ed initiative who are hoping to raise about $690 million a year for education by putting a surcharge on income taxes for individuals earning more than $250,000 a year.
Backers contend that’s the only way to ensure there will be enough money to have the state live up to its commitment for the teacher pay hikes and restoration of other state aid. The governor disagreed.
“I’m here to tell you, it’s not going to happen by raising taxes and killing our economy,” Ducey said.
“The only way to make that happen is by letting our hard-working taxpayers keep more of the money they earn and growing Arizona’s economy,” he said. “That’s where our focus needs to be if we want to be competitive with neighboring states.”
Ducey also told his audience that the state’s jobless rate, currently 4.7 percent, is as low as it’s been since “you were renting your movies from Blockbuster.”
But the governor did not point out that’s also true at the national level. In fact, the state’s unemployment rate is still eight-tenths of a point higher than the national average.