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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — The captain who led 27 other Iowa State Patrol troopers working border security duties for nearly two weeks in Texas said Wednesday they accomplished their mission of disrupting criminal activity that included smuggling humans, drugs and firearms.
Patrol Capt. Mark Miller said the state officers who stepped forward to be deployed to Texas by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds succeeded in making arrests, seizing illegal drugs, firearms and money while assisting people with food, water and other essentials as they encountered challenges facing people in this country legally and illegally.
“We’re proud of our troopers,” Martin told a news conference called by Reynolds to provide more details of a deployment she ordered that’s estimated to cost Iowa taxpayers about $300,000. “They made a difference.”
The Iowa troopers were deployed July 8 through July 22 and spent their time in the Del Rio area of Texas. They worked assisting Texas counterparts dealing with a U.S.-Mexico border that is being breached by an influx of illegal immigrants with accompanying drug and human trafficking issues, including sex offenses against minors and child exploitation, Martin said. Many of the people fleeing across the border are in desperate need of water, food and shelter, he noted.
Martin said the Iowans provided a “large visual presence” that helped disrupt smugglers and slow crimes, which drew constant thanks from Texans and undocumented people attempting risky border crossings through blistering hot, snake-invested deserts and treacherous river currents.
“The men and women of Iowa showed up. They did their job,” said Stephan Bayens, commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, which is the umbrella agency for the Iowa State Patrol.
According to the governor’s office, 28 Iowa Department of Public Safety law enforcement officers assisted the Texas Department of Public Safety with four key mission tasks including traffic duties, humanitarian efforts, tactical operations and human smuggling operations. Included were 12 road patrol troopers, 12 tactical operators, three command staff supervisors and one bilingual investigative agent.
At one point, Iowa troopers noticed a migrant woman in a crowd who was going into labor and summoned an ambulance, Miller said. Otherwise, the Iowa officers generally accompanied Texas law enforcement in conducting high visibility patrols in the Del Rio area.
Iowa State Patrol Col. Nathan Fulk said overall law enforcement operations associated with Operation Lone Star conducted during the 12 days the Iowa officers were “on the ground” in Texas resulted in 240 arrests, 51 vehicle pursuits and the seizure of 948 pounds of marijuana, 37 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine, 18 firearms and $1.7 million from criminal activities.
On June 24, Reynolds announced she planned to deploy Iowa State Patrol officers to the U.S. southern border to aid law enforcement and border security efforts there.
Reynolds said she approved the action in response to requests from fellow Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Iowa is one of seven states so far to indicate their intentions to deploy officers to assist in border security efforts.
On Wednesday, Reynolds defended her decision to send the Iowa troopers to Texas, saying border security is a federal responsibility that has not been adequately addressed by the Democratic Biden administration.
“Because they’re not, we’re stepping up,” the governor told reporters, adding that the cost being covered by Iowa taxpayers is “an investment that I believe was well spent. I think it was the right thing to do.”
After state law officers finish duties connected with the RAGBRAI bike ride this week and the Iowa State Fair next month, Reynolds said she would re-evaluate whether to deploy another group of state troopers for border security.
Critics have called the deployment a political stunt.
Shortly after the governor’s news conference, Araceli Goode and Patricia Ritchie of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Latinx Caucus issued a joint statement saying “we are grateful to the Iowa State Patrol for their professionalism at the U.S./Mexico border and happy to see them home and safe.
“However, Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Republicans continue to use fear to divide us from each other when they know, just like we do, that people who were born here are far more likely to commit crimes than people who are immigrants. This rhetoric is hurtful, dangerous and normalizes hateful actions against Iowa’s Latinx community,” Goode and Ritchie said in their statement.