Every State is a Border State

Every State is a Border State

By Governor Jim Pillen

September 14, 2023



Imagine for a moment what it would be like to constantly defend your livelihood against criminals who cut fences near your cattle or damaged water lines directly tied to your crop production? Would dealing with these challenges affect your role as an ag producer and steward of our land? Now, imagine learning that one of your children had been exposed to crime and human trafficking after being recruited to smuggle drugs into our country. Would this affect your role as a parent and protector of our next generation? 

Drug cartels and criminals are causing these dangerous scenarios on the southern border. They are also indirectly taking a toll closer to home. Over the past year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration linked 26 criminal investigations in communities across Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa, and Minnesota to Mexican cartels. Inside South Dakota’s tribal reservations, cartels are preying on residents to buy and sell drugs, where state law has no jurisdiction. The Texas Department of Public Safety has linked Mexican drug trafficking routes to Des Moines, where methamphetamine and fentanyl drug seizures increased by 1,000 percent in just one year.

A few weeks ago, I joined Governors Kim Reynolds (IA), Kevin Stitt (OK) and Kristi Noem (SD) at the border in Eagle Pass, TX, to support Gov. Greg Abbott (TX) in his mission to stop illegal immigration. Prior to the security briefing, I had the opportunity to spend time with 61 Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers who, as Commander in Chief, I sent to the border just a few weeks earlier. Their efforts were significant. During their time in Texas, they recorded 5,778 interactions with migrants. Of those, more than 3,000 people were turned back swiftly, but 2,708 were either apprehended or surrendered after crossing into U.S. territory. They performed their mission spectacularly and under budget.

Families crossing into the U.S. illegally reached an all-time high in August.  While they may be seeking asylum from a bad situation in their own homeland, the fact is, many are bringing trouble with them. Since its inception, border agents have detained more 420,800 illegal immigrants and made more than 33,600 criminal arrests. Enough doses of fentanyl have been seized at the border that could in reality, kill every man, woman, and child in the U.S.

Crossings are also becoming increasingly dangerous. That section of the U.S.-Mexico border has been deemed the deadliest in the world by the International Organization for Migration, a UN affiliated group.  In 2022, more than 853 migrants died while attempting to cross. Some who make it into America also suffer deadly consequences. Last summer, the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed our country’s deadliest human smuggling event in history following the deaths of 53 abandoned migrants. 

Nebraska is one of 14 states that have deployed state troopers or troops to the border since the inception of Operation Lone Star two years ago. We have sent both. I am committed to sending reinforcements in the future, as necessary.

President Biden has failed to assume federal control of a situation that is now left to the states to manage. For all the reasons above, and for those consequences that remain unknown, it is essential that we act to protect our own border – the one surrounding the state of Nebraska. Failure to do so only puts our own citizenry and our kids at risk. Turning a blind eye or anticipating that the situation will self-improve is not effective and will only lead to more serious repercussions. It’s now time for all states to step up and protect our country from the illegal activities facilitated by the border crisis.

I am confident if Nebraskans were provided with the data I received and if Nebraskans had the chance to see what I did in Texas, there would be 100% support for these decisions.

If you have questions about Nebraska’s role in securing our nation’s southern border, please call my office at 402-471-2244 or email me at jim.pillen@nebraska.gov.