By Julia Shanahan
President Donald Trump recently announced he would send National Guard troops to the Mexican border in an attempt to secure what he labeled a “surge” in illegal activity.
In a release from the office of Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she supports the president’s decision, and that troops at the border would be a step in ensuring Americans’ safety.
“The reality is, the border remains unsecured — meaning that drugs and crime continue to flow into the United States while illegal immigration and human trafficking flourish. We must act,” Ernst wrote in the press release.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds also agrees with the president’s decision.
“The governor supports a safe, secure border and supports the rule of law. If that requires the Iowa National Guard’s involvement, then she supports answering that call,” the Governor’s Office wrote in a statement to the DI. “Currently, the Iowa National Guard has not been asked.”
In Iowa, there are approximately 9,000 National Guard troops, said Michael Wunn, the state partnership director for the Iowa Guard. Of those 9,000, 7,000 are Army National Guard troops, and just under 2,000 are with the Air Guard.
Wunn said the Iowa National Guard has currently not been requested to deploy to the southern border, but if the troops were, it would require a request from the federal government to the Governor’s Office, where the request would then be sent to the Guard.
“The last time the [Iowa National Guard] troops were requested was in September of 2006-2007, and we sent approximately 40 Army National Guard soldiers,” Wunn said.
This was for a mission called Operation Jump-Start in which President George W. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to help support the Border Patrol and “restore order to the region.”
Those troops were there for two years and freed hundreds of Border Patrol agents to then perform apprehension checks on illegal migrants and drugs, according to the National Guard website. The operation cost $1.2 billion, according to the House Homeland Security Committee.
In the statement from the Governor’s Office and Ernst’s press release, both pointed out that Bush and President Barack Obama have sent the National Guard to the southern border.
Obama sent 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010 in a mission called Operation Phalanx. Since that operation, the National Guard was able to help seize 14,000 pounds of illegal drugs and contribute to the apprehension of 7,000 illegal immigrants, according to the U.S. Army website. The operation cost $110 million in its first year, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Wunn also said the National Guard rarely sees high activity at the U.S.-Canadian border and that he is not aware of any recent deployments to that area by the Iowa National Guard.