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Gov. Kim Reynolds called on President Joe Biden to provide more support for law enforcement and U.S. Border Patrol officials Wednesday in a news conference welcoming back the Iowa National Guard and law enforcement officials deployed in Texas.
Reynolds sent guard personnel and Iowa Department of Public Safety officers to Texas this year at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. He requested assistance from governors to help in Texas’ “Operation Lone Star,” a joint operation between the Texas Department of Safety and state Military Department to counter drug trafficking and illegal border crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Reynolds said she designated $1.93 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan to fund the deployment.
Iowa was one of 15 states to send personnel to the border after Abbott’s call. Iowa National Guard members deployed from Aug. 2 through Sept. 1, and DPS from Sept. 1 through Oct. 2. Reynolds said the assistance Iowa and other states provided was necessary because of the lack of support from the Biden administration.
The president announced plans to seek roughly $14 billion in border security funding last week as a part of a $106 billion supplemental aid package that also includes funding for Israel and Ukraine. Reynolds said the announcement comes as Biden is coming under pressure from Democrats in states that she said are also being negatively impacted by the administration’s border policy.
“This isn’t a partisan issue, by the way,” Reynolds said. “This is affecting our country. We all should be paying attention and be advocating for security along the border.”
Reynolds first announced plans to deploy troops to the U.S. southern border in May following the end of Title 42, a measure implemented during the pandemic that allowed the U.S. to turn away asylum seekers at the southern border.
At the news conference, officers and national guard members deployed to the border spoke about their experience assisting Texas law enforcement and border patrol agents. Captain Thang Truong, a member of the Iowa National Guard, said “suspicious activity was apparent” while working “shoulder to shoulder” with other military officials along the border.
“I’ve personally been deployed overseas three times, and on this mission I can see how it directly, immediately, impacts us and our community,” Truong said. “For instance, there would be large influx of migrants crossing the border, and on occasions we would see immigrants from various countries including China and Iran.”
Truong said that Iowa national guard members assisted with 1,700 apprehensions, 1,241 surrenders and two arrests of undocumented immigrants while deployed on the border. Iowa DPS officials said officers assisted in 40 human smuggling cases, 11 drug trafficking cases, 42 vehicle pursuits as well as turning over 491 migrants who crossed the border illegally to Customs and Border Patrol.
“When you see the number of terrorists that they’ve have apprehended that are crossing our borders, my God, think of the ones that got by us,” Reynolds said.
Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens said his takeaway from the experience was that Texas and federal officials along the border “seemed tired, seemed weary.” Bayens said the Iowans deployed showed “compassion and decency to all they encountered,” and that the people putting migrants at risk were the people involved in arranging border crossings.
“The tactics used by these smugglers put everyday citizens, those being smuggled and law enforcement in harm’s way,” Bayens said. “The scope of the problem at the southwest border is significant, and the law enforcement officers and the residents that live and work along that border are weary.”
Reynolds traveled to Texas in August to speak with Abbott and other Republican governors where she called for the need to support border security efforts.
While Iowa is not directly a border state, the governor and law enforcement officials said the state is affected by drug trafficking conducted along the southern border. Iowa has seen a 500% increase in fentanyl seizures and 100% increase in meth seizures from 2020 through 2022, DPS data found, as well as a 35% increase in drug-related deaths.
A 2020 U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report found most fentanyl trafficked into the U.S. is brought through legal ports of entry by U.S. citizens after being produced in China and Mexico. But Bayens said the Iowa division of narcotics enforcement found nearly 40 cases with a direct evidentiary link to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021 — more than double the number of cases with that connection in 2019 and 2020.
“So when the governor says every is a state border state, she’s not being glib, she’s not being political. The facts bear it out,” Bayens said. “What our folks see, day in and day out — it really highlighted the need for us to be down in Texas.”