Private donor funds to send South Dakota National Guard troops to Texas border

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Earlier this week, Governor Noem announced she is sending 50 members of the South Dakota National Guard to Texas to help secure the border. It is not uncommon for Governors to send help to other states. But, the announcement that the deployment will be paid for by a billionaire Republican donor is raising some eyebrows, even in a Republican dominated state like South Dakota.

“If President Biden won’t secure the border and stop the crime that’s affecting our state then we will,” Noem said in a video clip on her Twitter page.

It’s unclear when and exactly where the South Dakota National Guard members will be deployed in Texas. In her initial statement, the governor indicated the deployment would last somewhere between one to two months. The move comes after Texas Governor Gregg Abbot asked for help.

Republican governors from Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska and Iowa have all committed to sending law enforcement officers or national guard troops for border security.

At this point, it appears South Dakota is the only state using private funding.

The money comes from a foundation run by Tennessee Billionaire, Willis Johnson who founded Copart, an international auto salvage company and the author of a book titled Junk to Gold. Willis told keloland news he considered giving money to Texas and Florida but decided they are bigger states and had enough money. So he reached out to South Dakota.

“I thought you know, I will call Kristi Noem. I gave her a call and tell her what I’d do,” said Willis. “She said well, let me go to legal and see what we can do, and she got back and her legal department said ok. And my legal department, my accountant and my legal counsel, my attorney aid if they say it’s ok then it’s ok. Then they got back with me and if you do the donation then we have to by law we have to tell them who donated the money, I said that’s ok I don’t care, so they did, and then it happened.”

Democratic State Senator, Reynold Nesiba, says members of the guard are not mercenaries. He says South Dakota troops should not be for hire by anyone who calls the governor. He also says it appears to him that the deployment is for partisan political purposes.

As for its legality, Geoffrey Corn, a retired Lt. Colonel in the army and professor at South Texas College of Law, says he’s never heard of private funding for an American military activity. He says federal law would prohibit donors from directly subsidizing federal military activities, but it does not govern funding of state national guard units.

If the South Dakota soldiers follow duties laid out for members of the Texas national guard, they will have a limited scope of duty that does not include making arrests. They will instead focus on observing and reporting.

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