116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Elected Republicans at the state and federal levels are throwing their support behind Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision to send Iowa State Patrol troopers to Texas to assist with security at the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats are not.
Earlier this week, Iowa's GOP governor confirmed that 29 state troopers from Iowa had been deployed to provide assistance in the Del Rio area of southwest Texas for 16 days at an undisclosed cost that will be covered by Iowa.
Few other details have been provided by Iowa Department of Public Safety officials, who declined to provide "mission-specific operational information" for the troopers who volunteered for the duty.
"The size of the deployed team and the short duration of the deployment will be similar in scope to our commitment to other special assignments, such as RAGBRAI and the Iowa State Fair," officials said in a statement.
Troopers, according to the statement, "will be performing general law enforcement duties consistent with their training and experience."
On Wednesday, GOP members of the Legislative Council said they agreed with Reynolds' decision to answer a request for help from the Texas governor under the multistate Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
Reynolds said last month she was helping Texas with border security because “the rise in drugs, human trafficking and violent crime has become unsustainable.”
House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said GOP leaders have had conversations with the governor's office "so we’re up to date on what the use of that is going to be."
Given the mission to bolster security at the U.S.-Mexico border and the governor's concern about illegal drug and human trafficking, "I think that that’s a reasonable request for the governor to make," Grassley noted.
"It’s not just doing it for Texas, it’s doing it for the United States," added Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. "Utilizing these resources for a short amount of time I think will be worth it."
Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, laid the blame on the Biden administration for "making this problem so much worse" by failing to continue former President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall and stop illegal entry into the country.
Chapman said he believes Reyolds has the “overwhleming support” of Iowans in sending volunteer troopers to the border.
"Whether we want to admit that or not, those problems down on the southern border are becoming problems here in the state of Iowa, and so I absolutely supported that and I think most in the Legislature were happy with her providing that support," he said.
‘Keeping our own house in order’
Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said the Biden is dealing with problems he inherited when he took office in January.
"Border security is important, there’s no doubt about it," Wahls said
But on deploying Iowa troopers, he said, "I don’t know if this is the best use of state resources, especially when we are seeing some rising crime in the state of Iowa and that’s happening under the governor’s watch. So I think her focus should probably be keeping our own house in order.“
Wahls said the Biden administration is taking border security seriously and taking steps to improve it, “but It’s not a problem that can be fixed overnight. … President Trump had four years to fix the border problem, and he didn’t do it. So that’s a problem that he (Biden) inherited from the Trump administration."
In the past, Reynolds has pressed federal officials to make needed immigration reforms but neither major political party has been able to forge a compromise or policy changes, regardless of who was in control of the White House, the U.S. Senate or the U.S. House dating back to the mid-1980s.
U.S. senators support
During his weekly call with Iowa reporters, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who has been in Washington since 1975 and the U.S. Senate since 1981, said it was up to Reynolds to make the decision she did.
"I think the governor is in the right and helping the governor of Texas out because the federal government is not doing its job,“ he said. ”If it was doing its job, we wouldn't have anybody crossing the border."
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a second-term Red Oak Republican in the U.S. Senate since 2015, told reporters during a separate teleconference that she believes Iowa taxpayers have a right to know what duties Iowa State Patrol troopers are performing in Texas, how much money is being spent and other details of the current mission.
"I believe transparency is always the best policy, and so I would love to know, of course, what our state troopers are doing,“ she said. ”I do support the governor's efforts there. But since our taxpayer dollars are being spent on that, yes, we should have some accountability on, you know, what those troopers’ missions are and how they'll be utilized at the border."
Ernst said one of the biggest concerns is that "an uncontrolled border leads to human trafficking, gun trafficking, as well as, predominantly in Iowa, drug trafficking, especially methamphetamine. So it would be nice to know what they're engaged in, what agencies they're working with, and how our taxpayer dollars are being spent."
Governor’s ‘spending habits’
State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, an Iowa City Democrat, said he regularly drives on Interstate 80 "and I rarely see a state trooper."
"I don’t know how we have 25 or 30 troopers available to go down to the southern border and take over some federal role in security our border when we don’t have adequate resources to make sure that Iowa’s roads are safe," he said.
"The Legislature appropriates money for the state patrol and the Department of Public Safety. We ought to have been consulted about bankrolling this operation of sending Iowa law enforcement folks to the border. Iowa taxpayers are going to pick up the tab,“ he said.
“The Legislature should have been consulted on this," added Bolkcom, ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The Republicans who run the Legislature seem to have very little interest in overseeing their governor’s spending habits. They basically have put it in neutral and have given her the authority to do whatever the heck she wants."
Comments: (515) 243-7220; firstname.lastname@example.org
James Q. Lynch of The Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.