Send Utah guard to Texas-Mexico border, Senate leader urges Gov. Cox

Time for the “states to step up,” says Senate President Stuart Adams, as feud with feds festers.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, during the legislative session at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024.

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said Wednesday that Gov. Spencer Cox should send National Guard troops to the Mexico border if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asks for support in his escalating feud over immigration enforcement with the Biden administration.

“Yes, I believe it’s a well-spent effort,” Adams said during a daily media availability. “It is the responsibility of the federal government to protect our border. If they won’t, it’s probably time for the states to step up and do something about it.”

The Layton Republican added that he believes Utah should be ready and willing to send Texas whatever support it might require.

“Whatever is needed,” Adams said. “More than the troops, this would be a signal of unification of the states.”

Republican governors from 14 states sent National Guard forces and other personnel to the Texas-Mexico border in the past year. Cox, who participated in a trip to the border area this week, said President Joe Biden and Congress needed to do more to fix the problem. Last week, he joined his fellow GOP governors in support of Texas’ efforts. He has not yet said he would send troops if asked.

Cox’s office said his trip to Texas was not paid for by taxpayers but was funded by State Solutions, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group affiliated with the Republican Governors Association. State Solutions has funneled millions of dollars into political campaigns and issues nationwide. The organization’s 2022 IRS filing, the most recent available, shows contributions of more than $16.8 million with expenses of $17.9 million.

A spokesperson for Cox said that no staffers took part in the trip to Texas but would not disclose whether any members from his personal security detail accompanied him.

(Eric Gay | AP) Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz, fourth from left, R-Hooper, stands by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox during a news conference along the Rio Grande to discuss Operation Lone Star and border concerns, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

House Speaker Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, was also part of the trip to the border. His office says Schultz paid for his travel expenses and that no staffers or state employees joined him.

Adams, who has also visited the border, asserted that most of the migrants who are attempting to cross into the United States are coming from countries outside of Central and South America.

“I was shocked that the majority wasn’t from Mexico or even South America. They came from all over the world,” Adams said. “They were coming from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas of the world. Even China.”

According to figures from the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol encounters with migrants from countries outside of Central and South America and the Caribbean accounted for 16% of the total in 2023.

Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, agreed with Adams that the federal government needs to do more to address immigration. Still, she does not believe sending troops is the best solution.

“There are people dying. They are coming here because it’s so bad in their countries that this is what they think is the only place they can seek safety,” Escamilla said. “We should demand that the federal government take action. It’s their responsibility. It worries me that states have to put a band-aid on these types of issues. We have to be very careful.”