California Governor Doubles National Guard Troops to Curb Fentanyl Trafficking

Gov. Newson’s office plans to double the presence of a National Guard drug taskforce from 155 members to 392.
California Governor Doubles National Guard Troops to Curb Fentanyl Trafficking
California Gov. Gavin Newsom answers a question during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., on May 10, 2024. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo)
Jack Phillips

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is increasing the state National Guard presence in California to combat illicit drug trafficking.

In a post on social media Thursday, the Democratic governor, who was speaking near a U.S.–Mexico border crossing area, said that the state “doubled our National Guard” statewide “to stop the flow of fentanyl,” a synthetic opioid drug that has been blamed for a rash in U.S. overdose deaths in recent years.

“Our top priority is the safety of our communities statewide,” Mr. Newsom said in a news release regarding the move. “By working with state, local, and federal partners to take down transnational organizations and the illegal drugs they attempt to bring into our state, the state’s Counter Drug Taskforce is making a profound difference to hold smugglers accountable and take deadly drugs off our streets.”

He plans to more than double the presence of a National Guard drug task force from 155 members to 392, according to the release. The drug task force was first deployed along the border in 2022 with just 30 Guard members.

His office added that some 5.8 million pills containing fentanyl have been confiscated so far in 2024, with 62,224 pounds being seized last year.

“Due to significant initial success, in 2023, we doubled our force across those Ports of Entry,” CalGuard Major General Matthew Beevers said, according to the release. “Under Governor Newsom’s leadership and broad Congressional support, our Counter Drug Taskforce has grown from 155 full-time service members to 392 today.”

Drug-linked overdoses have surged across the United States in recent years. Data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have accounted for the majority of overdose deaths in 2022.

The three regions with the highest rates of overdose deaths are located far from the border. With about 80 deaths per 100,000 people, West Virginia was No. 1, while the District of Columbia was second with 64.3 deaths per 100,000, and Tennessee was third at 56 deaths per 100,000, according to the CDC.

California, meanwhile, saw about 26.9 deaths per 100,000 people, while about 11,000 Californians died from drug-related overdoses in 2022, the data show.

Mr. Newsom made his announcement after President Joe Biden recently issued new executive actions to shut down asylum requests once the average number of daily encounters hits a certain threshold.

“The border is not a political issue to be weaponized,” the president said in a White House speech announcing the order on June 4.

A fact sheet released that same day said that the Biden administration is also aiming to increasingly target the trafficking of fentanyl, while noting that U.S. officials under his administration have “seized record levels of illicit fentanyl at our ports of entry.”

Recent polls have shown that Americans have been increasingly supporting drastic measures around curbing illegal immigration and enhancing U.S. border security—with just five months to go before the November 2024 presidential election.

A CBS News poll conducted between June 5 and June 7 revealed that six in 10 voters endorse a potential mass deportation regime. Of that figure, three in 10 Democrats back such a move, while nine in 10 Republicans feel the same.
An Axios poll from April made a similar finding. Fifty-one percent of Americans, including 42 percent of Democrats said they would back the mass deportation of illegal immigrants.
At the same time, a Monmouth Poll that was released June 12 found that the Biden administration’s recent immigration order “doesn’t move the needle,” with about 4 in 10 Americans saying they are in favor of the executive order. About 33 percent have no opinion and 27 percent of respondents oppose the move, according to the survey.

Some officials and Republicans have suggested that President Biden’s border order is too late. Eagle Pass, Texas, Mayor Rolando Salinas, whose city is located along the U.S.–Mexico border, questioned why executive action wasn’t taken last year in the midst of historically high illegal immigration numbers, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did the same.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: