David Lias

David Lias

During her last year in Congress, Kristi Noem co-sponsored a few bills related to immigration, and even sponsored one now and then.

There’s the AG and Legal Workforce Act, introduced in July of 2018. It got kicked around among several subcommittees and committees and was finally introduced to the House and … that’s it.

She cosponsored the Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2017. The bill was introduced in the House … and it went no farther in the legislative process.

She also took part in introducing the Electronic Notification Improvement Act of 2017. After it was introduced, it was referred to a subcommittee and apparently never seen again.

In 2017, then Rep. Noem co-sponsored the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, a bill which would prohibit a “sanctuary jurisdiction from receiving grants under certain Economic Development Assistance Programs and the Community Development Block Grant Program.” After bouncing from committee to committee, this bill was finally referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. It must be gathering dust there, because there’s no record of it going any further.

This is just a tiny bit of former Rep. Kristi Noem’s legislative history when it comes to issues relating to immigration. One may argue that this may not serve as an accurate representation of all that she accomplished on the issue, but it’s probably safe to say that it is.

Our former president was still in his infancy as commander in chief in 2017, waddling around the White House, not caring much about anything except the crowd size at his inauguration, when some of these bills were introduced. He didn’t care all that much about this legislation, and he likely didn’t know Noem very well, if at all.

We all became aware of the whirlwind courtship between Noem and our former president that apparently happened sometime during the first two years of our former commander in chief’s first term. He flew to South Dakota twice in 2018 to help her be elected governor by a slim margin over her opponent.

After settling into the governor’s office in Pierre, Noem began working to ensure that the former president would come to Mount Rushmore for a fireworks-filled July 4 extravaganza.

After all, the president had told her in the Oval Office that he aspired to have his image etched on the monument. And in 2019, a White House aide reached out to the governor’s office with a question, according to a Republican official familiar with the conversation: What’s the process to add additional presidents to Mount Rushmore?

We all know how Noem made the most of our former president’s visit, even flying back to Washington, D.C. with him on Air Force One. She’s been working hard to be a shining light in Republican circles. She spoke at the GOP national convention. She crisscrossed the nation, campaigning for our former president’s re-election.

After his loss, she’s been acting like he’s still our president. And so, naturally, she had to be part of the scheme to go on the attack against President Biden this week. She’s sending a few of our National Guard troops to Texas to do just that.

This is just one example of the difference between Noem, the governor, and Noem, the member of Congress who signed on to one stinker of a bill after the other that had no hope of making it out of the House chamber.

When you’re a governor with ambitions, and an individual talked about as a potential presidential candidate someday, you have an advantage over those serving in Congress: Rather than just talking, you have the power to do things.

For Republican governors, that can mean picking fights with the Biden administration, so that they can present themselves as brave crusaders standing up for conservative principles and fighting against federal power.

That’s what Noem is doing instead of focusing of doing the job we South Dakotans elected her to do.

On June 10, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sent a letter to other governors invoking the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a compact that allows states to get help from other states during a time of emergency. Abbott and Ducey are both Republicans.

The letter warned other governors that while Texas and Arizona were “ground zero” for the immigration crisis, other states would see spillover. It warned of increases in human trafficking and deadly drugs, including fentanyl.

Once invoked, the compact affords out-of-state officers operating in Texas and Arizona with the same duties as domestic law enforcement personnel, including the power to make arrests.

According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader Tuesday, Noem has joined other Republican governors, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have pledged dozens of additional law enforcement officers to help their counterparts in Texas and Arizona.

Noem said Tuesday that the deployment would be paid by a private donor, with the mission lasting 30 to 60 days. Her spokesman, Ian Fury, confirmed that the Willis and Reba Johnson's Foundation from Franklin, Tennessee was the donor.

The private donor aspect of the happenings of this week is enough to generate a column all by itself. For right now, we’ll focus on other facets of Noem’s actions.

Is there a state of emergency at the border? I suppose if you throw around some numbers, you could say yes. In May 2019, 144,000 people were encountered attempting to get into the U.S. and in May 2020, there were 23,000 encounters.

In May 2021, the number grew to 180,000, of whom 10,765 were unaccompanied children from the Northern Triangle. As of May 31, 898,949 migrants have been encountered by Border Patrol, more than double the amount encountered in 2020 and exceeding the amount in any FY since 2006. If the monthly number remains stable, that would mean an additional 720,000 people by Sept. 30, for a total of more than 1.5 million encounters in FY 2021, exceeding the highest total set in FY 2006 of more than one million encounters.

What you won’t hear from our governor, however, is that the U.S. has expelled the majority – 520,000 by Feb. 2021 alone – of people who have tried to cross, with the exception of unaccompanied, minor children.

You won’t hear her repeat observations from Human Rights Watch, which notes that, “Over the past four months, President Biden has pushed Mexico to redouble its immigration enforcement efforts. The Mexican government has deployed thousands of additional immigration agents and 10,000 Mexican soldiers to detain undocumented migrants.

And the Biden administration continues to expel thousands of migrants to Mexico every day without full due process. Meanwhile, Mexican immigration agents detain and deport thousands of migrants every month—mostly Central Americans, many of whom are headed to the US. In fact, Mexico deports more Central Americans every year than the US.”

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy notes that support is needed on both sides of the border to ease emergency conditions in the U.S. and Mexico. I don’t think any of it is the kind of support that our governor and her Republican cohorts have in mind, however.

To ease conditions at the border, humanitarian support is needed to help provide legal services, education, health care and housing support to refugees and asylum seekers.

Security aid also must be earmarked to where the crisis is beginning: the Central American countries from which thousands are fleeing. It has been proven that financial aid to these countries with a goal of decreasing violence and increasing security and protection of citizens will reduce the need for people to flee to the U.S. It’s simply a good investment. Certainly a better investment than a wall, which does nothing to ease human suffering.

I’d like to think that our governor’s focus is on humanitarian support and on convincing Congress and the White House to step up security aid to Central America.

I don’t think that’s going to happen, though. This is just a wild guess, but our governor likely will be on Fox News this week. Our former president, the one that wants to be added to Mount Rushmore, is also reportedly traveling to Texas this week. It will be no surprise if our governor flies to Texas, too, to join him.

What’s really sad is the actions taken by Noem this week will not help people who are suffering. Her actions will not ease a humanitarian crisis. These are complex problems that take a lot of hard work to solve.

Noem’s actions are, sadly, very simple, and it’s questionable if they’ll offer a short-term solution to our nation’s immigration problems, let alone a long-term one.

Our governor’s actions have only one goal: to help Noem fulfill her ambitions to be a rising GOP star.

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