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DES MOINES — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will join nine other Republican governors Wednesday in visiting the Texas-Mexico border and holding a news conference to discuss what they term a “border crisis” and the Democratic Biden administration’s response to it.
Reynolds’ office did not provide details of the governor’s itinerary other than to confirm she will be part of a tour of the U.S. southern border and will hold a conference call with Iowa reporters afterward in the midafternoon.
Questions about Reynolds’ trip surfaced after a news release from the Idaho governor’s office named her as one of the GOP governors who will join Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott near the Rio Grande to witness the border conditions firsthand, reveal their proposed solutions and call on President Joe Biden to act to secure the border immediately. Along with a joint news conference, the visit includes plans to take a boat tour of the Rio Grande, which forms part of the border with Mexico, with Texas Department of Public Safety agents.
According to a news release from Abbott’s office, the noon news conference in Mission, Texas, was expected to include Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw; Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd; Texas Military Department Brig Gen. Monie R. Ulis; and National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd.
Asked Tuesday if the Iowa governor’s trip to Texas was considered official state business that would be paid for by state funds, Alex Murphy, Reynolds’ communications director, confirmed her office considered it an official visit.
“The Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, a 501c4, is providing transportation to Texas. The State of Iowa is paying for lodging for the Governor and her staff in the amount of approximately $500," Murphy said in an email.
“I hope that the governor’s not using taxpayer funds for a political stunt,” said Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville.
Last month, Reynolds joined 25 other governors in requesting a meeting with Biden to “bring an end” to what they view as a national security crisis at the nation’s southern border. The group of state chief executives said the White House meeting is necessary to respond to a crises “created by eight months of unenforced borders.” But no such meeting has been scheduled.
In signing the letter, Reynolds said her “first responsibility” is to the health and safety of Iowans, which she said is being affected by border activities.
On Tuesday, the Republican Governors Association released a video highlighting what the organization called “Joe Biden's failure to enact federal policies that can help to control and mitigate the crisis he has created at our southern border.”
The video, which at the end features a photo of Reynolds and four other GOP governors, focuses on the situation at the Texas-Mexico border that the association called an “avoidable crisis (that) was created by Joe Biden, and only the federal government has the authority and resources to end it, but Biden refuses.”
According to a news release accompanying the video, “as the effects of record migrant crossings, dangerous drugs, and criminals flooding the southern border are felt in states across the nation, the chief executives are calling out Biden’s inaction and ready to offer serious solutions.” The one-minute video ended with the message: “If Biden won't step up, Republican governors will.”
In July, at Reynolds’ bidding and approval, a total of 28 Iowa Department of Public Safety law enforcement officers spent nearly two weeks working border security duties alongside authorities in Texas on a mission aimed at disrupting criminal activity that included smuggling humans, drugs and firearms as well as aiding humanitarian needs in the Del Rio area of Texas.
Reynolds said she made the decision in June to approve the action — which cost Iowa’s general fund about $300,000 — in response to requests from fellow Republican governors Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. She defended the decision to spend state money on the mission by telling reporters border security is a federal responsibility that has not been adequately addressed by the Biden administration. She said she would evaluate whether to deploy another group of state troopers for border security after this summer was over.
“The governor is still evaluating at this time,” Alex Murphy, Reynolds’ communications director, said last month.
Previously, out-of-state travel, public events and news conferences would have been part of the governor’s weekly public schedule that would be released on Fridays to Iowa news organizations. However, months ago Reynolds’ office discontinued that practice, which dated to former Gov. Robert Ray’s administration and the enactment of Iowa’s open meetings and records laws.
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