A lack of details about Iowa state troopers’ deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border has led Democrats and others to question that deployment.

Late last month, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that she would answer a call from her peers in Texas and Arizona to send a contingent of state troopers south.

“My first responsibility is to the health and safety of Iowans, and the humanitarian crisis at our nation’s southern border is affecting all 50 states,” Reynolds said in a press release then. “The rise in drugs, human trafficking and violent crime has become unsustainable.”

Reynolds, a Republican, included claims about increased “border encounters,” fentanyl seizures and drugs found in Iowa that she said were “smuggled” over the U.S. southern border by cartels.

Since then, the governor’s office has not released any more information about the deployment. Details from the Iowa Department of Public Safety have been scant, due to safety precautions, according to that office.

“The size of the deployed team and the time of deployment — approximately two weeks — will be similar in scope to our commitment to other special assignments, such as RAGBRAI and the Iowa State Fair,” said Strategic Communications Chief Debbie McClung in a statement to the Telegraph Herald. “We are confident the public safety needs of Iowans will not be compromised by the temporary absence of deployed troopers.”

In response, Iowa Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, sent follow-up questions to the governor’s office.

“I am seeking answers to the following questions about the governor’s deployment of state troopers to the ‘southern border,’” Isenhart posted to his Facebook account. “The questions are based on statements made in the governor’s press release to justify the decision. ... The governor should have the requested information if the decision is justified for the reasons she cited.”

Isenhart then listed 20 questions, including: What percentage of seized drugs in Iowa can be documented to have come across the southern border? What percentage of violent crime in Iowa can be documented to directly relate to people coming across the southern border? How is the “humanitarian crisis” at our nation’s southern border affecting Iowa (other than the occasional lack of communication regarding the transport of refugees)?

As of Friday, Isenhart had received no response.

In Maquoketa, Iowa, Democratic State Auditor Rob Sand said Friday that people had been asking about the legality of Reynolds deploying the troopers. He said it was legal but unusual.

“There’s an interstate compact that allows her to do it,” he said. “If a state asks for assistance, you can send it. The same compact presumes that the receiving state — Texas — would be paying for it. I know the governor of Texas has said they’re already beyond their budget.”

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, authored an op-ed in the Washington Examiner, criticizing Democrats’ proposed reductions in funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Our officers don’t have the manpower or tools necessary to combat the cartels, smugglers and human traffickers using sophisticated techniques to push dangerous drugs and people across our border every day,” she wrote. “... I will always defend, never defund, law enforcement officers in Iowa and at our southern border.”

Sand talks fed rental assistance

In Maquoketa, Sand was critical of Iowa’s recent decision to not accept more federal rental assistance.

Through the CARES Act of 2020, Iowa received $195 million to provide rental assistance for individuals impacted by the pandemic. Iowa Finance Authority Director Debi Durham said recently that the state would accept no more through the American Rescue Plan, partly because it has given out less than 2% of that.

Answering a question, Sand acknowledged to the group of about 50 people at Maquoketa’s First Ward Park that states all over had problems with the federal program.

“If you look around the country, only about 6% has been spent,” he said. “In Iowa, 1.5% has been spent. To me, the answer is not ‘Step back and forget about it.’ It’s ‘Fix the problem.’ I have some concerns about the amount of money coming out of D.C. What’s different about the rental program is, it’s just money in people’s pockets. It helps renters and landlords.”

Dubuque native ends internship for Grassley

Dubuque native Joe Patrick recently completed a four-week internship in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Patrick served as a press intern, assembling Grassley’s daily news clips, attending all radio, TV and print interviews and providing internal office communications, according to a press release.

Efforts to reach Patrick for comment, including through Grassley’s office, were unsuccessful.

Chesney opposes college vaccination requirements

Illinois Rep. Andrew Chesney, R-Freeport, recently introduced a bill that would ban state universities from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to in-person learning on campus.

“I call for these colleges and universities to reverse these policy decisions and to quit using a global pandemic our nation is recovering from as an excuse to stifle voices on-campus in Illinois this fall,” he said in a press release.

The legislation is strictly about COVID-19 and does not mention the many other diseases against which students must be vaccinated before attending most higher education institutions.

For example, the University of Illinois website states, “The Illinois College Immunization Code requires that college students enrolled on campus should be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella. Students under the age 22 must be immunized against meningitis.”

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