South Dakota governor uses private funds to send troops to Mexico border

• Republican Kristi Noem deploys national guard to Texas

• Move justified as response to ‘crimes’ committed by migrants

South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, is deploying up to 50 national guard troops to the southern US border, responding to a call from the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, for help dealing with a rise in border crossing, although the majority of migrants have been sent back to Mexico.

Noem said on Tuesday in a statement that she was responding to his request for assistance in responding to “ongoing violations of state and federal law by illegal aliens crossing the unsecured border”.

Abbott reissued a disaster declaration on Tuesday, which said some border counties were partnering with the state to boost arrests and detention of people “for crimes related to the border crisis”.

Noem, a longtime supporter of former president Donald Trump, who focused heavily on keeping asylum seekers and other immigrants out of the country, said the initial deployment for guard troops will last for between 30 and 60 days.

The deployment is being paid for by a private donation, which some say is unusual.

“I’ve never heard of anything quite like this before,” said Dan Grazier, a military fellow at the Straus Military Reform Project, which is run by the Center for Defense Information, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in DC that analyzes military matters.

He said the deployment set a troubling precedent and risked politicizing the military.

In a public statement, Noem said the South Dakota adjutant general, Jeff Marlette, and the South Dakota department of the military were working with their counterparts in Texas to finalize the details of the deployment. The governor’s office declined to provide further details, citing security reasons.

“The Biden administration has failed in the most basic duty of the federal government: keeping the American people safe,” said Noem. “The border is a national security crisis that requires the kind of sustained response only the national guard can provide.” She said the Biden administration seemed “unable or unwilling to solve” border problems. “My message to Texas is this: help is on the way,” she said.

US Customs and Border Protection said it apprehended 180,034 migrants, mostly single adults, in May. That number is up slightly from 178,854 in April and 172,000 in March, and was the biggest monthly total since April 2000. Many are traveling to the border to seek asylum as their own countries face economic turmoil fueled by the coronavirus pandemic. Others are also fleeing political persecution and gang violence, including many Haitian immigrants worried about President Jovenel Moïse’s effort to remain in power.

Despite hopes that the US will reopen its borders, a large number of people have been expelled under a Trump-era policy called Title 42, ostensibly to stem the potential spread of Covid-19. Of the 180,034 people encountered in May, more than 112,300 were turned away, according to border patrol figures. Unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 are exempt from the rule, and are being allowed into the country and into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Still, Abbott, who is seeking re-election next year, has spent several months saying that the growth of border crossings has caused a boost in crime in Texas, and continues to seek additional state resources to make arrests.

The Washington Post reports Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, said a donation of an undisclosed amount was paid to the state of South Dakota by Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation. The Tennessee-based nonprofit previously donated to Trump and the National Rifle Association.

“The military is supposed to be used to further our national security interests and ensure the safety of all citizens, not just the whims of a few private individuals with the means to pay for its services,” said Grazier.

Abbott recently said he would reallocate $250m in state funds to pay for a wall on the southern border, and additionally received $459,000 in private donations, according to the Texas Tribune.


Sarah Betancourt

The GuardianTramp

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