Gov. Kim Reynolds has approved sending Iowa State Patrol troopers to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to a request for assistance from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Reynolds, a Republican, made the announcement Thursday. She said Iowa law enforcement agencies have encountered drugs and weapons that were smuggled across the border by cartels.
"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."
Sgt. Alex Dinkla, a public information officer for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said the state expects to send 25 to 30 sworn officers to Texas. The troopers are expected to be deployed for about two weeks, he said in a statement.
"For officer safety purposes, the Iowa State Patrol does not provide specific operational details of missions," Dinkla said.
Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, both Republicans, sent a letter to all U.S. governors on June 10 requesting assistance. In the letter, they invoked an Emergency Management Assistance Compact that allows states to assist each other in times of disaster or emergency. Both governors have declared emergencies and deployed the National Guard to the border. Abbott has also asked to reallocate $250 million to build a border wall.
Reynolds said 24 members of the Iowa National Guard are currently conducting a mission to assist at the southern border following an October 2020 request from the federal government.
Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday for the first time. Harris has been tasked with dealing with the root causes of migration from Central America, and Republicans have criticized her for months for not visiting the border.
Over the past several months, there has been an increase of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. While the majority of the migrants are being turned away under Title 42 — a policy that allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to expel undocumented migrants to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in holding facilities — President Joe Biden's administration is accepting children and some families. The Biden administration had been heavily criticized for overcrowding in border patrol facilities and for children being kept in Customs and Border Protection custody longer than 72 hours.
The agency said its staff encountered 180,034 migrants in May, a 20-year high.
This spring, Reynolds declined a federal request for help housing migrant children who had crossed the border, saying Iowa does not have the capacity to house them.
"We don't have the facilities. We are not set up to do that," Reynolds said in April. "This is not our problem. This is the president's problem. He is the one that opened the borders. He needs to be responsible for this, and he needs to stop it."
Reynolds is also seeking answers from the federal government about an overnight flight carrying at least 19 unaccompanied migrant children that stopped in Des Moines on its way from California to Florida in April. Reynolds' office said two children were released to sponsors at the Des Moines International Airport after the plane landed.
She said in a letter earlier this month that the federal government's failure to provide advance notification of such flights to states places an undue burden on law enforcement to determine whether they "constitute a criminal act of human trafficking or the federally-sponsored transport of vulnerable children."
Patricia Ritchie, vice chair of the Iowa Democratic Party's Latino Caucus, said she doesn't believe Reynolds' decision to send troopers to the border is appropriate. She said she believes it gives the impression that Iowa isn't a welcoming state for immigrants.
Ritchie said devoting Iowa's resources to the border also creates a gap that the troopers who remain in Iowa will need to fill.
"The troopers that you take out of our lines, the troopers that stay behind, they have to cover up the shifts that they’re missing," she said. "And what are you doing? You’re putting more strain and more stress on the troopers and the families that are back here."