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Nebraska agreed to no reimbursement for troopers in Texas

July 16, 2021 GMT

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska agreed not to seek reimbursement from Texas for the state patrol troopers that it sent down to the U.S.-Mexican border at the request of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, according to documents released Friday.

Nebraska State Patrol documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the state committed, at least initially, not to seek reimbursement for the mission, which is estimated to cost more than $334,000.

A spokesman for the patrol and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a fellow Republican, issued a joint written statement after the documents were released, saying they will seek to be repaid if given the opportunity.

“The language in the agreement was included to expedite the deployment,” the statement said. “The state of Nebraska continues to work with Texas, and a funding source has not been finalized. Given the opportunity, the state will seek reimbursement. The state has the resources to pay for the deployment if reimbursement is not ultimately available.”

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Nebraska’s disclosure comes a few days after Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a fellow Republican, acknowledged that her state will cover the cost of sending law enforcement troopers to fight crime along the border. In South Dakota, a private donor has agreed to cover the cost.

As with Nebraska, Iowa officials have argued that Texas could later reimburse the state for its expenses. But the agreement released Friday with Nebraska shows that Texas asked other states to “absorb the associated costs with this mission” for the good of the country.

Nebraska’s patrol estimated that sending 25 troopers to the border for 16 days would cost an estimated $334,000. However, Ricketts announced last week that he has extended the voluntary deployment of 15 of the troopers. Those troopers will stay an extra 14 days, raising the expected cost of travel, salaries and other expenses.

“Nebraska is happy to step up to provide assistance to Texas as they work to protect their communities and keep people safe,” the governor said last week when he announced the extension, as he blasted the Biden administration for its handling of the U.S. border.

The AP obtained the formal agreement with Texas under Nebraska’s public records law. Parts of the agreement describing what the troopers would be doing along the border were redacted, with state officials claiming they were exempt from disclosure because they were investigative matters.

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Ricketts has compared the situation to similar calls for aid from Minnesota during the Derek Chauvin trial and North Dakota during large anti-pipeline protests. But critics said the disclosure still raises questions about the use of state tax dollars and troopers who might otherwise be enforcing the law at home.

“Nebraska taxpayers are footing the bill to send 25 Nebraska State Patrol troopers to the border, hundreds of miles from Nebraska,” said Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska. “At the base of it all, state patrol officers have a duty to serve Nebraskans, not the Texas government,”

Ricketts has defended the decision to send troopers to Del Rio, Texas, pointing to an unauthorized increase in southern border crossings over the last year.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 180,000 encounters on the Mexican border in May, the most since March 2000. But the numbers were boosted by a pandemic-related ban on seeking asylum, which encouraged repeated attempts to cross the border because getting caught carried no legal consequences.

Nebraska’s move to send troopers to the border comes as Ricketts positions himself as a vocal, conservative critic of President Joe Biden. Ricketts has railed against various administration proposals in nationally broadcast interviews, including a goal to conserve nearly one-third of America’s lands and waters by 2030 that Ricketts paints as a federal land grab.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte