Gov. Northam orders Va. National Guard helicopter, crew to return from border

Virginia Gov.-elect, Ralph Northam gestures during a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WSET) -- Governor Ralph Northam has ordered the recall of four Virginia National Guard soldiers and a helicopter from the U.S. southwest border in response to the federal government's enforcement of a 'zero-tolerance' policy that separates immigrant children from their families.

Northam's announcement follows several other governors, both Republicans and Democrats, that have refused to commit state military resources in protest of Trump's immigration policies.

"Virginia benefits from the important work of securing our border and we have a responsibility to contribute to that mission. However, we also have a responsibility to stand up to policies or actions that run afoul of the values that define us as Americans," Northam wrote in a statement. "[Tuesday] I spoke with the Adjutant General of the Virginia National Guard and ordered him to withdraw four soldiers and one helicopter from Arizona until the federal government ends its enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy that separates children from their parents."

Virginia National Guard UH-72 Lakot Helicopter and a four-person crew from Chesterfield County left for a 90-day mission to provide support for border patrols.

A second crew was scheduled to rotate in halfway through the mission.

"When Virginia deployed these resources to the border, we expected that they would play a role in preventing criminals, drug runners and other threats to our security from crossing into the United States—not supporting a policy of arresting families and separating children from their parents," Northam continued.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also teamed up with 20 other attorney generals in a joint letter calling for the policy's end.

Northam said he would provide Virginia National Guard resources for immigration enforcement if President Trump gave the order before the family separation policy began dominating headlines.

Maryland's governor, Larry Hogan, a Republican, made a similar move just hours before Northam.

"Let me be clear—we are ready to return and contribute to the real work of keeping our nation safe," Northam concluded. "But as long as the Trump administration continues to enforce this inhumane policy, Virginia will not devote any resource to border enforcement actions that could actively or tacitly support it. I urge President Trump and leaders in Washington to turn away from this zero-tolerance policy and come to the table on the real immigration reform this nation needs."

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