The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa national guard, state troops return from US-Mexico border

The state spent nearly $2 million in ARPA funds to send Iowans to help in the area.
Jordan Barry
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during Reynolds’ annual Harvest Festival at the Elwell Family Food Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.

Iowa spent $1.93 million on a recent deployment of Iowa National Guard members and Iowa state troopers to the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to help Texas officials secure the area amid an unprecedented number of encounters. 

During a press conference Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and leaders from the Iowa National Guard and Iowa Department of Public Safety described the efforts and experiences of the 109 Iowa National Guard members and 31 Iowa Department of Public Safety law enforcement officials during their one-month deployments in August and September, respectively. 

The mission was paid for with leftover federal funds earmarked for Iowa’s COVID-19 recovery under the American Rescue Plan Act, according to a news release from the Governor’s office. 

The deployment was part of Operation Lone Star, an operation spearheaded by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to ebb the flow of undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico Border.

According to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, nationwide encounters with CBP are at an all-time high, with 341,392 encounters recorded in September 2023 compared to 272,338 in September 2022. 

There were 269,735 encounters in southern border states in September 2023, compared to 227,542 in September 2022. 

The actual number of border crossings is unknown. The Bureau of U.S. Customs and Border Protection does not track the number of encounters that result in a deportation hearing. 

Reynolds said despite Iowa not being a border state, Iowa feels the effects of the influx of migrants at the southern border. 

“The President’s inaction at the border has resulted in catastrophic consequences. In failing to respond to this crisis, he has failed the American people,” Reynolds said in a Wednesday news conference. “As Governor, I have a responsibility to protect the safety and well-being of Iowans, and protecting them at home starts with protecting the border.” 

Stephan Bayens, Iowa Department of Public Safety commissioner, said the unprecedented border crossings reached Iowa in the number of illicit drugs seized in the state. 

“The challenges our nation is facing at the border is touching every corner of this state in ways that few understand,” Bayens said. 

Captain Thang Truong, the leader of the Iowa National Guards contingent to the southern border, said the influx of migrants they encountered came from various countries, including China and Iran. 

Publically available data on the Customs and Border Patrol website showed that 20,517 Chinese citizens and citizens of “other” countries were encountered in the southern border states in September 2023. A list of “other” countries in which citizens were encountered at the southern border was not available and Iran was not listed as a major source of migrants. 

“I’ve personally been deployed overseas three times, but this is a mission I can directly see how we, as the Guard, are making an impact,” Truong said. “We are proud that we could help stem the flow of migrants across the border to protect Iowans.” 

During their deployment to the border, officers and guardsmen encountered 491 undocumented migrants who were turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. 

This deployment was the Iowa National Guards’ third to the Southern Border since 2020, but the first for a state mission. 

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About the Contributor
Liam Halawith, Senior Politics and News Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Political Science. Before his role as Senior Politics and News Editor, Liam was the Politics Editor and a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.