Gov. Schwarzenegger: Good afternoon. Afternoon, everybody. Two weeks ago President Bush announced that he intended to deploy National Guard troops to our borders with Mexico. The plan as it was outlined presented numerous logistical problems for us. I shared my concerns with the administration. I also made it clear that I was willing to assist in this effort to make sure that we secure our borders, and I also explained that we are totally in agreement that there is an increase in undocumented immigrants coming across, there's an increase in drug smuggling, there's an increase in human trafficking, and also the increase of risk of terrorists coming across.
Since that time, of course, I have made numerous meetings, we had numerous meetings and made many phone calls, and had meetings also with our National Guard to determine how California could actually participate effectively in this kind of a mission. So today I am signing a Memorandum Of Understanding with the federal government to use the National Guard on a temporary basis to help to secure our borders.
However, the mission that I will assign to our California National Guard will be significantly different from the plan laid out by President Bush. We will assist in a manner that protects our troops and uses our men and women in the most effective and appropriate way possible.
First, instead of rotating the troops every two to three weeks, we wanted to make sure that we rely primarily on a duration force of 1,000, who would be likely to serve for tours between 6 months and 1 year. I have instructed the Guard to rely principally on volunteers, and that we will begin an aggressive recruiting campaign program to send only Guardsmen who choose to participate in this mission. We will not involuntarily call to duty those brave men and women that just came back from Iraq or from other places overseas, and that fought the war on terror.
What is also very important is that a temporary border service must not compromise the Guard's emergency response mission, or its readiness for the Guard's federal wartime role. All direct or indirect costs associated with this mission will be paid in full or reimbursed by the federal government. Now, California's National Guard troops will not play a direct role in law enforcement activities, including apprehension or maintaining custody of detained persons.
And finally, and most importantly, regardless of whether Congress provides the 6,000 additional Border Patrol officers that the President wanted, the California National Guard will end its border mission no later than December 31st of 2008.
Now, the important thing here is that we see great enthusiasm amongst our National Guard; there are over 700 volunteers that have already showed interest in going on this mission, so we will be sure that we will be ready by July 15th to send our Border Patrol to the borders.
So that's, I think, a very important move forward, and now if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
Q. Governor, yesterday during the hearing at the State Senate Committee, several folks from the National Guard testified they hadn't gotten a lot of answers back yet from the federal government about some of the key questions. What's happened in the last 24 hours? And as a follow up, have you spoken to anybody in Washington about any of this?
A. Yes, we have been in contact with Washington, I've been talking with them, and also talked to the leadership of the National Guard. And we have gotten the answers that we needed, and we are prepared to send now the National Guard to the border. As I have outlined this, it was very important that some of the questions have been answered, because we had concerns about who was going to pay for it. We wanted to make sure that the federal government is reimbursing us and paying us for this mission, and that the California taxpayers don't get stuck with that bill. That was extremely important.
The other thing that was important to us was, as I have said from the beginning, it didn't make any sense to me to do the rotating system and to have every two or three weeks troops going in there, which I compared to doing surgery on someone and then switching the doctors out every two or three minutes during the surgery. It's ineffective and it is not the best way to go. We want to make sure that our troops can be effective and really assist the Border Patrol. And so, therefore, to do it with a duration force that will be working there for maybe six months to a year at a time I think is the best way to go.
What was also important is that the mission has an end date, which is, like I said, December 31st of 2008, because with all those military missions, as we all know, they start out and they are always very enthusiastic about that this will only be for one year or only two years. But we have already Border Patrol -- I mean, we already have National Guard down there since the late ‘80s, and we were told then already that it is only for a short period of time, and they are still down there. So this is why we wanted to make clear there is a cut-off date, and that should inspire the federal government not to think that they can hire and maybe take their time for six years, but it has to be done within this two and a half year period.
Q. Governor, does the federal government have any power to extend this deadline?
A. Well, I'm the Commander in Chief, so I can take back the National Guard at any time that I want. That is the most important thing, that there is control over that. And like I said, we are doing this, may I remind you, reluctantly. I mean, it's not my preference to send the National Guard to do this mission. But under the circumstances, to help the federal government to secure our borders, because that is our No. 1 concern, is securing the borders, and I'm, as I said, extremely concerned about terrorists, potential terrorists, sneaking across that border. It's our main responsibility, is to secure the people of California.
Q. Governor, but you said -- Governor...
A. Yeah, please.
Q. Are you concerned, Governor, about the fact that in Washington the Senate and the House have not resolved the whole funding situation, the supplemental 1.9 billion that they want for the whole country? Are you concerned that that's not resolved, and it might leave California stuck in some fashion?
A. We've been promised by the White House, we have been promised by Homeland Security, by everybody, basically, that we will get reimbursed and that they will pay for it. So that was good enough for me, when you get the promise of all of them.
Q. Is California's role any different from that of other states in this assignment?
A. There are differences from one state -- I cannot comment on that. There will be also, I think, the leadership of the National Guard coming out here that will talk a little bit about it and answer those detailed questions, what the difference is. I don't know exactly what Texas is doing, I don't know exactly every step of what makes ours different, our concerns different from the ones in Arizona and so on. But I just wanted to not think about that much about what other states are doing. I wanted to make sure that we, sending our National Guard, and that we are protected in every way possible so that, A. that if there is a state of emergency in our state, that if there is a major earthquake, or if there is a flood, or there is a terrorist attack, or a major fire, that we have enough men and women from the National Guard that can immediately go into action, and we will have 16,500 of them available and ready to go. So I wanted to make sure of that.
I also wanted to make sure, like I said, that the federal government is paying for it. I also want to make sure that it stops, that the mission stops at the end of the year of 2008.
So all of those things we want to make sure of. Maybe those are not concerns of the Texas National Guard. Maybe those are not concerns of other states. But we've got to look out for the interest of our people and our National Guard here in this state.
Q. Will the Guards be armed? And are you firm on that nearly 1,000 number?
A. Yes. We are firm on that, No. 1, on the number of approximately 1,000. And No. 2, the intention is not to have armed guards at the border. We do not want to militarize the border zone, because as I always say, we are not having south of the border the enemy. We are having friends on the south of the border. We just have a major problem there with the things that I have mentioned. And I think it is important that those, that are directly exposed to, for instance, human trafficking, drug smuggling and so on, and if they are in harm's way, that they should be able to defend themselves, and they will have weapons.
Q. Governor, there's some legislation, there are some bills moving through the legislature -- just to shift gears for a second -- on the minimum wage. Are you prepared to support a minimum wage bill, or could you support a minimum wage bill that would be indexed to inflation, or would you prefer a minimum wage increase, but with no indexing?
A. I cannot support something that has failed with our government. You know, in government here we have automatic spending formulas that are increasing the spending, and it almost bankrupt the state of California. And I think that those automatic increases and those automatic spending formulas have been terrible for our state, and why would we take something that almost bankrupt the state and now say, well, now we're going to punish the private sector, we're going to have you do it too?
So it is a failed system, it doesn't work, because the economy goes up and down, and we cannot make those adjustments that quickly. If the economy goes down for two or three years but you see that you have to increase the minimum wage, it doesn't make any sense for the private sector. So I will not support anything like that.
But I do support a 1 dollar increase in the minimum wage. I think it is time now, and I think that the people that have worked very hard did not have a minimum wage increase for many years. I think it is fair for them, these are the hardworking people of California, and we must always look out for the little guy out there that makes a little amount of money. So I will fight for that, that we will a minimum wage increase.
So thank you very much, thank you all. Thank you.