Republican governors visit southern U.S. border in Texas

Governors of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, and Oklahoma meet to discuss joint security efforts, Operation Lone Star deployments
Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 10:51 AM CDT
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EAGLE PASS, Texas (WOWT) - The governors of Nebraska and Iowa joined other Republican governors Monday for a news conference in Texas to share their concerns about border security.

The governors have sent National Guard soldiers and other personnel supporting efforts to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt participated in a security briefing headed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in Eagle Pass on Monday morning. The governors also took an aerial tour to view the border — including the buoys put in place by the state of Texas that form a floating barrier on the Rio Grande that resulted in a lawsuit by the Justice Department.

“Let me be clear: We are fully authorized by the Constitution of the United States of America to do exactly what we are doing and that is to secure the border,” Abbott said.

Gov. Abbott noted that 15 Republican governors in total have deployed personnel to the border, including governors of Tennessee, Idaho, Floriday, Ohio, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and North Dakota.

He said that President Biden isn’t doing his job, and there have been deadly consequences.

Gov. Reynolds, who is also the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, also thanked all the GOP governors that have “stepped up” to assist at the border and “doing what the Biden administration should be doing.”

She emphasized that while Texas is taking the brunt of the issues at the border, calling it “ground zero for over two years” because of Biden administration border policies that are “an assault on our democracy” by reversing “policies that protect the sovereignty of this country and the citizens and ultimately have made every state a border state.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds makes a statement at the U.S. border in Texas on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

According to the Texas Comptroller website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 107 pounds of fentanyl in 2019 and 692 pounds in 2022. DEA Omaha reported that in all of 2022, it had seized nearly 4.7 million lethal doses of fentanyl in a five-state area.

“Let me tell you, Iowa is located at the intersection of two major interstates and it is a pathway for the Mexican cartel and for human traffickers to take to go from Mexico to the Midwest,” she said.

The Human Trafficking Institute, however, said in a 2022 report that “while increased border security may combat human trafficking in some cases, experience has shown increasing border personnel has not deterred trafficking.” Instead, it’s contributed to a rise in first-time illegal entrants, which generally result in “easy plea convictions” while diverting resources away from the fight against human trafficking.

Gov. Reynolds said the bulk of such drug seizures happening in Iowa can be directly tied to Mexico and the cartel. Meanwhile, the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan organization generally considered to offer centrist points of view, testified in front of Congress last month that 90% of fentanyl seizures occur in legal ports of entry.

“The fact that the states are protecting the southern border is an assault on the Constitution and the American people, and it is time for this president to step up — way past time — and do his job,” Reynolds said.

Noting he was the newest governor in the crowd, Gov. Pillen said he recalled when he was sworn into office earlier this year.

“That’s very very vivid in my mind,” he said. “I took an oath, I swore to the Constitution of State of Nebraska and to the Constitution of the United States of America to defend — defend — against all foreign and domestic foes, anybody that’s trying to harm us. And I am here because we together have to work to uphold that.”

The governors of Nebraska and Iowa joined other Republican governors Monday for a news conference in Texas to share their concerns about border security.

The governor said the one thing that has stuck in his mind during this visit — his first visit to the border — has been about the buoys.

“My word is ‘disbelief.’ Absolutely disbelief of the misrepresentation... of the buoys. I’m a pig farmer. It’s hogwash, pun intended, hogwash. The buoys are a deterrent; they don’t cause a Band-Aid, and if they do, I say ‘What the heck? Stay on your side of the river.’ The misrepresentation of who’s coming — I mean, we are fighting cartels that are trying to kill our kids — kill our kids! That’s one thing in the United States we all surely agree on, right? Is our kids? That we’re going to protect our kids. So my message is simple: We have to do the work, and Biden administration, federal government: Do your dad-gum job. Common sense solves this problem. Follow the leadership of Governor Abbott.”

Gov. Noem said she sees the border as “a war zone.” She said that federal laws “are threatening our sovereignty right now, and the cartels are out for blood, and they are facilitating the trafficking of our children each and every day.”

Noem said that the reinforcements from the states help show that “there is a different choice” in how U.S. borders are protected.

“We don’t need more laws. We just need the president to respect the laws we already have,” she said.

Gov. Stitt said this isn’t an issue about immigration; it’s about policy, and the U.S. needs to return to the Trump-era policy of “remain in Mexico.”

“You don’t have a brain if you don’t think we need to secure our border,” he said.

Gov. Reynolds deployed 109 Iowa National Guard soldiers who are set to return Sept. 1 — a day after a number of Iowa State Patrol troopers makes their way to the border until Oct. 2. Reynolds also previously sent 30 Iowa public safety personnel to assist in border security back in May.

“...Every state is a border state, and Iowa’s unique location at the intersection of two major interstates makes it a target for human traffickers and drug cartels,” Reynolds said in an Aug. 2 news release.

Gov. Pillen is traveling with Nebraska National Guard Adjutant General Craig Strong to visit the 61 soldiers from the state who were deployed Aug. 2. They are expected to return home in early September.

“This mission is critical to the security of Nebraskans as well as all Americans,” Pillen said then. “I am looking forward to visiting with our soldiers and observing their operations personally and sharing the state’s appreciation for their service as part of Operation Lone Star.”

The deployments are assisting agencies working to secure the southern U.S. border amidst what Gov. Abbott has declared a “security disaster.”

Nebraska’s participation in border security comes through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC, which allows states to provide resources and assistance to other states in times of emergency.

Watch Monday’s news conference

The governors of Nebraska and Iowa joined other Republican governors Monday for a news conference in Texas to share their concerns about border security.