Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds joins red-state governors at U.S.-Mexico border

By: - August 21, 2023 4:00 pm

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a press conference in Eagle Pass, Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border Aug. 21, 2023. (Screenshot via the Office of the Governor Greg Abbott livestream)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican governors Monday to criticize President Joe Biden’s administration on border policy at the U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Reynolds, alongside fellow Republican governors Jim Pillen of Nebraska, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, made a trip to Texas following deployment of their state national guard members and law enforcement officers to the U.S. southern border.

The personnel sent in early August to Texas are supporting the state’s “Operation Lone Star,” a joint operation between the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Military Department. Abbott launched the operation, focused on countering drug trafficking and illegal border crossings, in 2021.

Abbott made the call to fellow Republican governors asking for support in in May, in response to the Biden administration allowing Title 42 — a measure implemented during the pandemic allowing the U.S. to turn away asylum-seekers — to lapse. Abbott said 15 states, including Texas, have deployed personnel to the border in response to his request. Another 10, he said, are supporting the border mission.

“Half of the states of the United States of America are banding together to step up and secure a border that President Biden has abandoned,” Abbott said. “And there are some very simple reasons why we’re having to do this. The primary reason is because Joe Biden is not doing his job.”

Pillen said his takeaway from the border trip is “disbelief” in how the media and Biden administration were portraying Texas’ border security efforts. The federal Justice Department will head to court Tuesday in a case against the state of Texas for implementing their own security measures such as a barrier of floating buoys and sharp razor wire along the Rio Grande.

“It’s hogwash, pun intended, hogwash,” Pillen said. “The buoys are a deterrent. They don’t cause a bandaid. And if they do, I say what the heck, stay on your side of the room.”

Pillen said critics were also misrepresenting “who’s coming” across the border, saying that cartels are trying to kill American children.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data found border arrests between ports of entry surged in July after a fall from May to June.

Republicans, including Reynolds and Abbott, have said Biden’s border policies led to an increase in illegal activities and violence along the southern border. Reynolds said Iowa is also seeing the impacts of the “Biden-created catastrophe” along the border through drug-related deaths. Since 2020, Iowa has seen a 500% increase in the amount of fentanyl seized, a 100% increase in meth seized and a 35% increase in drug-related deaths, she said.

“I know that’s nothing compared to what you’re seeing here, but the bulk of those seizures can be tied directly to Mexico and the cartels,” Reynolds said.

Noem said South Dakota was also seeing a rise in drug trafficking and use, especially in tribal areas. She said Biden was ignoring the border and underfunding tribal law enforcement, which puts the people of South Dakota’s lives “on the frontlines” of the border crisis.

“Because the cartels are set up in South Dakota too,” Noem said. “That’s what this country needs to realize, is that when you have a president in the White House that breaks the law, and ignores the law, that has consequences. Not just here in Texas … I deal with it every single day in South Dakota.”

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, most fentanyl is brought into the country through legal ports of entry by U.S. citizens after being produced in China and Mexico.

When asked if he believes former President Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would better support Texas in securing the border as a president, Abbott focused on the need to replace Biden in 2024.

“Listen, we just want to Republican president,” Abbott said. “I know that the country cannot suffer four more years under Joe Biden. America will be destroyed from within.”

Reynolds’ deployment of Iowa National Guard troops and Iowa State Patrol officers was paid for through the 2021 American Rescue Plan, a federal program opposed by Republicans.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.