When Texas and Arizona could no longer stem the flood of illegal aliens streaming across their borders, Republican governors Greg Abbott and Doug Ducey sent a letter to all other governors seeking help. The call came because the border patrol and local law enforcement were overwhelmed and assistance from the federal government was absent. Indeed, the 93-day lead-up to the visit by border czar Kamala Harris did not result in help from Washington.
Abbott and Ducey explained that “Securing the border with Mexico is the federal government’s responsibility. But the Biden Administration has proven unwilling or unable to do the job.”
Several Republican governors have heeded the plea for help. According to U.S. News and World Report, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Idaho Governor Brad Little have volunteered to send state law enforcement to help at the beleaguered border. In addition, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem answered the call, dispatching 50 South Dakota National Guard troops.
What makes the offer of South Dakota National Guardsmen unusual is that a private donor has come forward to help defray the costs. In a June 29, 2021, press release, Governor Noem’s staff explained:
“Today, Governor Kristi Noem announced that up to fifty South Dakota National Guard troops are being deployed to Texas to help them secure the border between the United States and Mexico. This is in response to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s request for help to respond to ongoing violations of state and federal law by illegal aliens crossing the unsecured border… The initial deployment to the border will last for between 30 and 60 days. South Dakota Adjutant General Jeff Marlette and the South Dakota Department of the Military are working with their counterparts in Texas to finalize the details of this mission. The deployment will be paid for by a private donation.”
As the Capital Journal reports, a “Franklin, Tennessee [the Volunteer State], non-profit Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation is footing the bill for a 50-troop South Dakota National Guard deployment to Texas.” The Johnson’s philanthropy caused somewhat of an uproar in Washington. Despite Noem describing the border situation as a “national security crisis that requires the kind of sustained response only the National Guard can provide,” having a private donor help defray the cost is seen as troubling.
The concern among the Biden administration’s Pentagon and others in Washington, according to Military Times, does not mention the disastrous situation on the border but rather the prudence of the initiative itself. Military Times reporters Meghann Myers and Leo Shane III write:
“The decision by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to use a private donation to send 50 National Guard troops to Texas’s southern border has sent shockwaves through military and government oversight circles, with questions raised about the legitimacy of the move, which appears to be a first. The move raised questions about the legalities of a privately funded deployment, not to mention the optics of sending troops across the country for what could be perceived as a political statement.”
House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) put his two cents. “We need to question the use of the National Guard in that manner,” he told Military Times. “We need to find out what they’re doing there and how we can make it stop because I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of the Guard.” By all means, bring to bear the entire Washington establishment to curtail any relief to the swamped border agents trying to keep Americans safe.
Never to be denied the opportunity to say something, anything, Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) called the Noem initiative “shameful” and “blasted” the South Dakota governor for “using rightwing donor money to send National Guard troops to perform partisan political stunts.” Ah, so struggling to keep the U.S. border safe from throngs of illegals, some of whom are sex offenders, potential terrorists, and convicted criminals, is a partisan political stunt.
Governors Abbott and Ducey spelled out the magnitude of their problem in their June 10 letter to the other governors. The text read:
“The cartels will see to it that their deadly fentanyl and human-trafficking victims reach far and wide. The convicted criminals they smuggle into the homeland will bring recidivism with them to far too many of your communities. And although people are now coming to our border from as far away as Senegal, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan, the cartels are not exactly screening for threats to public health or national security.”
Sending National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border is nothing new, though listening to the likes of Smith and Swalwell, one might think so. President George W. Bush deployed over 10,000 National Guard soldiers to the border; President Obama sent 1,200 and President Trump around 5,200.
And receiving donations to defray Guard expenses is not new. John Goheen, the spokesman for the National Guard Association of the United States, provided a historical perspective, saying, “If you go way back before the federal government, before anything close to the modern National Guard, the Guard used to approach people for money for armories.”
Raising the political component of the private funding, U.S. News and World Report suggested, “And while the offers of aid may be good-faith efforts to help fellow governors, they also serve a pointed political purpose: to skewer President Joe Biden and his administration and paint the federal government as inept when it comes to immigration enforcement.”
Nonetheless, it is also true that the skewered can’t be skewered unless skewering-worthy. Is the fact that two border governors had to go hat in hand to their fellow state leaders seeking support that should have been forthcoming by the federal government ample evidence that the Biden administration deserves the skewering?
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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