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DES MOINES — Up to 30 Iowa State Patrol officers will be redeployed for about two weeks to the U.S.-Mexico border to help law enforcement and border security efforts there, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state Department of Public Safety announced Thursday.
Reynolds said she approved the action in response to requests from Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact between states.
“My first responsibility is to the health and safety of Iowans and the humanitarian crisis at our nation’s southern border is affecting all 50 states,” Reynolds said in a statement “The rise in drugs, human trafficking, and violent crime has become unsustainable. Iowa has no choice but to act, and it’s why I am honoring Texas’ Emergency Management Assistance Compact following assurances from the Iowa Department of Public Safety that it will not compromise our ability to provide all necessary public safety services to Iowans.”
On June 10, Abbott and Ducey formally requested law enforcement support from all 50 states through the interstate mutual aid agreement that enables states to share resources during a disaster, according to Reynolds' office. With the action, Iowa would join Florida, Nebraska, and Idaho — states all led by Republican governors — in sending law enforcement to assist Texas and Arizona.
“It is anticipated that approximately 25 to 30 sworn members of the Department will travel to Texas in support of this request,” said a statement from the Iowa Department of Public Safety. “The deployment is expected to last approximately two weeks.”
Currently, the Iowa State Patrol has 360 sworn staff with 267 solely assigned to road duty, according to the department.
Neither the department not the governor’s office responded to questions after the announcement Thursday of whether the border duties would require any special training or what powers Iowa troopers have outside the state.
“For officer safety purposes, the Iowa State Patrol does not provide specific operational details of missions,” said Debbie McClung, a spokeswoman for the Public Safety Department.
A department email obtained by WHO-TV said that the state “will be soliciting officers to travel to Texas to support this request. We anticipate the travel dates will be July 8-23, 2021.”
Under the interstate pact, the states requesting the aid must reimburse other states that provide it for the cost.
In a news release, Reynolds' office said the Iowa National Guard currently is conducting a mission with 24 soldiers from the Unit 2/34 Infantry Brigade Combat Team to assist law enforcement agencies at the southern border, per an October 2020 request from the federal government.
In May, there were roughly 180,000 border encounters, a 20 year high, according to the governor's office. Also, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in March reported a 233 percent increase in fentanyl seizures from the previous year. In May, that year over year increase climbed to 300 percent. In Iowa, law enforcement officials are recovering drugs, illegal narcotics, and weapons being smuggled across the nation’s southern border by drug cartels, the governor's office added.
Manny Galvez, a North Liberty resident and Catholic Worker House activist, said Reynolds should be welcoming immigrants to Iowa, not sending state police to the border.
“This is crazy. The governor denied welcoming children and now she is sending the police. How shameful and an absolutely irrational waste of state resources,” Galvez said in a statement.
A spokesman for Iowa City Catholic Worker said the organization has helped admit 10 refugee families into the country since Jan. 20, after they were initially expelled back to Mexico under a federal order. The group has 18 cases pending with the American Civil Liberties Union and its members also have helped four families reunite with unaccompanied family members this year.
Reynolds made her deployment announcement on the eve of Vice President Kamala Harris’ planned trip to the U.S.-Mexico border at El Paso, Texas.
The Harris visit follows weeks of criticism that she hasn't visited the area despite being tasked by the Biden administration with trying to alleviate the flow of migration over the southern border. Conservatives have been pushing Harris to visit the border for weeks as they raise alarm over a record number of unaccompanied children who have crossed into the United States this spring.
Former President Donald Trump plans on touring Texas’ southern border next week with Abbott, who recently announced that Texas will take steps to build its own border wall and has touted Operation Lone Star — an initiative to bolster state law enforcement presence at the border.
Reynolds previously criticized Biden administration officials’ lack of transparency in flying 19 refugee children into Des Moines to be transported to sponsor families without notifying her or other Iowa officials. The action occurred, she said, despite her previous rejection of a federal request that immigrant children be housed in Iowa.
Reynolds and other Republicans have asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a public hearing about the movement of migrant children into states after unaccompanied refugee children were flown into Iowa without her office being notified.
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