Foundation donates $1M to pay for South Dakota National Guard deployment to southern border

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 5:47 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - The state of South Dakota is receiving $1 million from a Tennessee-based foundation to deploy the South Dakota National Guard to the southern border.

Governor Kristi Noem has received national media coverage and pushback for her decision to accept a private donation to send troops to the southern border.

On Wednesday, in a video posted to Twitter, Noem attempted to explain her decision to accept private money for the mission.

She argues that other state agencies had accepted similar gifts before, but doesn’t cite an example of that ever happening with the state National Guard.

” I know there have been some questions about the private donations paying for this deployment. On several occasions, our state partnered with private citizens on projects that are important for South Dakota. This deployment is vital for the security of our state and our nation.”

Noem’s office was initially unwilling to disclose the amount of the donation for the sake of “security reasons“, but in an email obtained by Dakota News Now, Noem’s office told lawmakers that the amount was $1 million. Noem stressed the importance of the deployment.

“The Biden administration has failed to secure the border from illegal entry. As a result, thousands of illegal immigrants are coming into the country and there is no plan to send them back,” said Noem.

Senator Mike Rounds released a statement Wednesday stating the Biden administration “has failed to address the problem.”

“We clearly have a crisis at the southern border. Since the Biden administration has failed to address the problem, it’s understandable that governors are stepping in. South Dakota’s governor obviously believes that she has the discretion to use private funds,” Sen. Rounds said.

Representative Dusty Johnson also commented on the southern border crossings.

“We are seeing a record number of illegal border crossings. President Biden and Vice President Harris alongside Congress should uphold their constitutional duty to secure and protect our southern border. That’s why I’m supportive of legislative efforts to immediately reinstate the Trump Administration’s Remain in Mexico policy that stemmed the border crisis,” said Rep. Johnson.

Senator John Thune’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither Sen. Rounds’ nor Rep. Johnson’s comments expressed support of the governor’s use of a private donation to fund the deployment.

University of South Dakota Political Science Professor Michael Card says the deployment “doesn’t look good.”

“It looks like you can rent out the national guard for private purposes,” said Card. “There is a clause and it appears that they are justifying it’s an “emergency” based on declarations by Arizona and Texas. But she can’t declare an emergency on the border from South Dakota.”

The money is coming from the Tennessee-based Willis and Reba Johnson Foundation. We spoke with Willis Johnson who said he’s a Vietnam veteran and that he doesn’t approve of the way Biden is handling the border situation. He says he likes the way Noem has stood up to Biden.

The governor’s communications director, Ian Fury, says Noem welcomes donations to help alleviate the cost to South Dakota taxpayers. In a now-deleted tweet, Fury said all troops taking part volunteered for the mission.