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Noem deploys more Guard troops to border on federal mission

July 7, 2021 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota National Guard will send 125 soldiers to the United States border with Mexico as part of a federal government mission, Gov. Kristi Noem announced Wednesday.

The deployment is expected to last up to a year and is separate from the National Guard force the Republican governor is sending as part of a state-backed effort initiated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to clamp down on illegal border crossings.

Noem faced backlash last week after using a $1 million donation from a billionaire GOP donor to send up to 50 troops to Texas, though she has defended the move as a way to defray the cost to taxpayers. The latest National Guard deployment will be paid for with federal funds.

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“I am hopeful that this mission indicates the Biden Administration is waking up to the devastating situation at the border,” Noem said in a statement.

Republicans have harped on President Joe Biden as illegal border crossings have increased this year. But both Abbott’s state-backed border security push, as well as Noem’s ploy to send troops funded by a donation from a private foundation, have been criticized as political theater.

The National Guard troops and law enforcement officers sent by Republican governors to answer Abbott’s request for help will likely be dwarfed by the federal force amassing at the border. About 3,000 Guard members from several states are involved in the federal mission.

The governor’s office said the National Guard members will provide non-law enforcement support to U.S. customs agents, but did not provide further information about their duties, citing security.