Iowa officials discuss recent deployment to U.S.-Mexico border

DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds led an hour-long briefing Wednesday to discuss the work that groups of Iowa National Guard soldiers and state law enforcement officers did at the southern border in August. Reynolds said it’s a crisis that the Biden Administration has ignored.

“It is an open border policy…There’s not another country in the world that would allow this to happen,” Reynolds told reporters. “…When you see the number of terrorists that they’ve have apprehended that are crossing our borders — my God! Think of the ones that got by us.”

Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Stephen Osborn said his soldiers found their Texas counterparts were exhausted. “Texas has been kind of fighting this on their own for a long time,” Osborn said. “Our soldiers volunteered because they believe they’re contributing to the security not just of Texas and those border communities, but the United States and that’s what they swear to protect and defend.”

The 109 Iowa National Guard soldiers the governor deployed to Texas in August were involved in stopping nearly 3000 people who were trying to cross the border illegally.

Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Bayens said the officers from his agency who volunteered to go to Texas tell him what they saw was inhumane. “The tactics used by these smugglers put everyday citizens, those being smuggled and law enforcement in harm’s way,” Bayens said. “The scope of the problem at the southwest border is significant and the law enforcement officers and residents who live along that border are weary.”

Twenty state troopers and nine special agents from the Iowa Department of Public Safety worked alongside Texas Highway Patrol and Texas Criminal Investigation Division. An Iowa Highway Patrol plane and two pilots who were in Texas during August provided a 40,000 foot view of illegal activity at the border.

“It’s almost like a chess match for them down there,” said Iowa State Patrol Captain Mark Miller, who was the supervisor in Texas “The Department of Public Safety makes a move, the cartels make another move and they have to counter that move and that’s been going on constantly for two and a half years now.”

In one case Miller cited, officers had stopped a semi for an equipment violation. Miller said it turned out the rig that looked like it was hauling sand was stolen. “We find nine human beings in these two sand boxes. One of the scary parts of it is this driver didn’t mention he had people,” Miller said. “He would have gone to jail, this trailer could have easily been taken to a tow yard and it’s hot down there. Our average day was about 100 degrees. The next day these people could have literally been cooking in that trailer.”

Most of the troopers’ time was spent on smuggling routes, including a stint on Interstate 35 near Laredo, Texas. Governor Reynolds said she’s using federal pandemic relief money to cover the $1.93 million spent to deploy all 112 Iowans to Texas for a month. “Since the president and his administration have refused to rescue America’s borders, we have done our part on their behalf,” Reynolds said.

This is the second time Reynolds has sent Iowa law enforcement to the Texas border. In July of 2021, more than two dozen Iowa State Patrol officers deployed to Texas for two weeks.