Inverse Zone

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‘Slow day:’ Guard emails don’t match Noem border ‘war’ talk

‘Slow day:’ Guard emails don’t match Noem border ‘war’ talk

SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem described the U.S. border with Mexico as a “war zone” last year when she sent dozens of Guard troops there State National, saying they would be on the front line to arrest drug traffickers and human traffickers.

But Guard records show that during their two-month deployment, South Dakota troops seized no drugs. On a few occasions, they suspected people of looking for flaws in their patrols, but the mission logs contain no confirmed encounters with “transnational criminals”. And a presentation of the deployment noted that Mexican cartels were seen as a “threat” but were “unlikely” to target US forces.

On some days, records show troops had little or nothing to do.

“Very slow day. No encounters. It has been 5 days since the last surrender,” wrote a Guardsman whose name was removed from a situation report created as the deployment drew to a close in September 2021. .

For Noem, who is up for re-election on Tuesday amid speculation, she could be a candidate for the White House in 2024deployment was a eye-catching leap into a political fight more than 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) from its state. Noah justified the deployment – and a much criticized private donation to fund it – like a state emergency. Dangerous drugs, she said, made their way to South Dakota after crossing the southern border.

But documents obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington through an open records request cast doubt on the deployment’s effectiveness in stopping drug trafficking, even though Noem claimed Guard members ” directly helped” to stop him.

Most drugs do not cross unguarded stretches of the border or the Rio Grande where Guard members were stationed, said Victor Manjarrez, a former senior Border Patrol officer who is now a professor of criminal justice at the University of Texas at El Paso. They are smuggled into the United States at established border checkpoints, he said.

Members of the South Dakota Guard were stationed at observation posts where they parked Humvees or other military vehicles along the Rio Grande. They were watching for groups of migrants to report to border control, which would then take them into custody. On several occasions they reported groups of hundreds of people migrating, and at one point a member of the Guard performed CPR on a child who had drowned.

During the two-month deployment, the Guard registered 204 people who were returned to Mexico and 5,000 others who were apprehended by the Border Patrol to assess asylum claims. Those apprehensions were just a small fraction of the more than 162,000 encounters reported by Border Patrol in July and August in the Rio Grande Valley sector — the 34,000-square-mile strip where the guard was stationed.

“Like any operation, there will be busy days and slow days, which is expected in all operations,” South Dakota Department of the Army spokesman Marshall Michels said in a statement. e-mail response to questions about PA records. .

Noem joined seven other Republican governors last year to toughen the border across Texas’ Operation Lone Star. The state-backed mission sought to deter migrants by making arrests under Texas law.

The mission gave Republicans an opportunity to mock President Joe Biden’s border policies, but the operation did not slow down the number of people crossing the border. It was also criticized for being a rushed mission that gave members little to do while potentially breaking federal law.

Noem’s decision to send 48 members of the Guard was particularly criticized because she covered most of its cost with a million-dollar donation from a Tennessee billionaire who often donated to Republicans. Senior National Guard Bureau brass and an aide to US Senator from South Dakota, John Thune, another Republican, questioned the state’s legal authority to accept a donation to fund the deployment, show recently published emails.

CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) sued the South Dakota Guard and the U.S. military after refusing a Freedom of Information Act request for records on deployment and communication between the National Guard, the Office of the governor and the Ministry of Defence. Under this legal pressure, the agencies turned over the documents, which CREW shared with The Associated Press.

Noah Bookbinder, president of CREW, said they wanted to bring transparency to a donation he called a “particularly loose example of how money can drive not just politics, but also the workings of governments and how military forces can be used”.

Congress later prohibits these private donations for Guard deployments.

Noem’s administration insisted that the National Guard, with its military training, was best placed to deal with what it called “a national security crisis.”

“It’s literally a war zone,” she told reporters in July.

Noem’s office referred questions about the deployment to a statement last year when she called Biden’s border policy a ‘total disaster’ that facilitated illegal border crossings and said Mexican cartels were using the influx migrants as a “distraction for their criminal activities”.

“The scale of drug trafficking and human trafficking has been made clear to us, and it is staggering,” she said.

During the two-month deployment, members of the Guard reported spotting 11 people they believed to be scouts for surveillance lapses. On another recorded occasion, members of the Guard pointed flashlights at five people with backpacks crossing the Rio Grande who then retreated. Major General Jeffrey Marlette, chief of the South Dakota Guard, later told a South Dakota legislative committee that they were likely carrying drugs.

These are the only times members of the Guard have reported suspicions of drug trafficking. The South Dakota National Guard said it accomplished its mission in supporting Texas’ Operation Lone Star and referred questions about its success to the Texas National Guard.

The 17-month-long Texas operation has recorded 21,000 criminal arrests, most of them resulting in felony charges, Governor Greg Abbott’s office recently reported. The Texas National Guard also said it was responsible for 470,000 migrant detections, arrests and pushbacks, as well as constructing 114 miles of fences and barriers.