WASHINGTON — Asserting the situation had reached "a point of crisis," President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a proclamation ordering the deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration.
"The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people," Trump wrote in a memo authorizing the move, adding that his administration had "no choice but to act."
The announcement came hours after Trump pledged "strong action today" on immigration and a day after he said he announced he wanted to use the military to secure the southern border until his long-promised, stalled border wall is erected.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had been working with governors of the southwest border states to develop agreements on where and how many Guardsmen will be deployed.
She suggested some troops could begin arriving as soon as Wednesday night, though other administration officials cautioned that details on troop levels, locations and timing were still being worked out.
Trump has been frustrated by slow action on building his "big, beautiful wall" along the Mexican border — the signature promise of his campaign — as well as a recent uptick in illegal border crossings, which had plunged during the early months of his presidency, giving Trump an accomplishment to point to when he had few.
Federal law prohibits the use of active-duty service members for law enforcement inside the U.S., unless specifically authorized by Congress. But over the past 12 years, presidents have twice sent National Guard troops to the border to bolster security and assist with surveillance and other support.
Nielsen said the effort would be similar to a 2006 operation in which President George W. Bush deployed troops to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel with non-law enforcement duties while additional border agents were hired and trained. President Barack Obama also sent about 1,200 troops in 2010 to beef up efforts against drug smuggling and illegal immigration.
Nielsen said her department had developed a list of locations where it would like assistance on things like aerial surveillance and other support, and was discussing with the governors how to facilitate the plans. She declined to say how many personnel would be needed or how much the operation would cost, but she insisted, "It will be as many as is needed to fill the gaps that we have today."
One congressional aide said that lawmakers anticipate 300 to 1,200 troops will be deployed and that the cost was expected to be at least $60 million to $120 million a year. The Pentagon would probably need authorization from Congress for any funding beyond a few months, said the aide, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Governors of the four U.S. states bordering Mexico were largely supportive of the move. The office of California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat who has sparred with Trump on immigration issues, said any federal request would be promptly reviewed to determine how the state could best offer its assistance.
The Mexican foreign ministry said Nielsen told Mexico's top diplomat that troops deployed to the border "will not carry arms or carry out migration or customs control activities."
Senators in Mexico urged President Enrique Pena Nieto to temporarily suspend cooperation with the U.S. on immigration and security issues. In a nonbinding statement approved unanimously Wednesday, the senators asked Mexico's government to freeze joint efforts "in the fight against transnational organized crime" until Trump starts acting "with the civility and respect that the people of Mexico deserve."
Trump first revealed Tuesday that he'd been discussing the idea of using the military at the border with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
"We're going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military," Trump said.
He spent the first months of his presidency bragging about a dramatic drop in illegal border crossings, which some DHS officials had even dubbed the "Trump effect." Indeed, arrests at the border last April were at the lowest level since DHS was created in 2003, and the 2017 fiscal year saw a 45-year low for Border Patrol arrests.
But new statistics released Wednesday show about 50,000 arrests of people trying to cross the southwest border last month, a 37 percent increase from the previous month, and a 203 percent increase compared to March 2017. The monthly increase follows typical seasonal fluctuations.
In Texas, which already has about 100 National Guard members stationed on the border, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, said the president's decision "reinforces Texas' longstanding commitment to secure our southern border and uphold the Rule of Law."
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, said she appreciated the Trump administration's efforts to involve states in the effort to better secure the border. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican, tweeted that his state "welcomes the deployment of National Guard to the border. Washington has ignored this issue for too long and help is needed."
SIOUX CITY -- Scores of Siouxlanders turned out Wednesday to experience a variety of different cultures.
Western Iowa Tech Community College hosted its 5th annual Festival of Nations, which was open to not only WITCC students and staff but also the general public.
The audience was entertained by performers that included Winnebago Native American dancers, Scottish bagpipe player Ron McKay, the WITCC dance and cheer teams and a local line-dancing troupe from the Siouxland Center for Active Generations.
For a small fee, guests also were able to sample ethnic food from a number of countries.
The festival plays tribute to the college’s English language learners, international students and staff who represent more than 30 countries.
SIOUX CITY — Ernie Goss and other economists are proving to be prophetic.
About a month ago, Goss, the Director of the Institute for Economic Inquiry and professor of economics at the Heider College of Business at Creighton University in Omaha, said if President Trump went further with his then proposed and since implemented tariffs on steel and aluminum, the blowback would be swift and brutal for farmers.
“Agriculture is always the first casualty of a trade war,” he said.
This week, China responded with tariffs of its own, many of which take direct aim at Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and other heavy ag states.
The People’s Republic implemented a 25 percent tariff on pork imports — Iowa is the nation’s leading pork producer — and 15 percent tariffs on 127 other products ranging from fruit to wine on Monday.
China followed up two days later by proposing additional tariffs on beef, ethanol, soybeans, which also would hit farmers and other area businesses in the pocketbook.
Iowa is the nation's leading soybean producing state, with Hawkeye State growers expected to plant a record 10.1 million acres of the crop this year, up 600,000 acres, or 6 percent, from the previous year, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The record global demand has maintained more favorable prices for soybeans making them more profitable to grow than corn or wheat, said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.
China purchases 61 percent of U.S. soybean exports, and more than 30 percent of overall U.S. soybean production, amounting to nearly $14 billion, according to the American Soybean Association. Soy meal is fed to hogs, cattle and fish in a Chinese culture increasingly seeking to eat more meat.
The ASA, which represents 21,000 American soybean farmers, in a statement Wednesday said the tariff would have a “devastating effect” on its industry.
“Soybean futures are already down nearly 40 cents a bushel as of this morning,” said John Heisdorffer, the association president and a Keota, Iowa, farmer. “At a projected 2018 crop of 4.3 billion bushels, soybean farmers lost $1.72 billion in value for our crop this morning alone. That’s real money lost for farmers, and it is entirely preventable.”
Bill Shipley, president of the Iowa Soybean Association, reiterated those fears as the start of the spring planting season nears.
“If they don’t get it solved in the next 90 days it could be disastrous,” he said.
Shipley, who farms in southwest Iowa, was in China for a trade mission just a few weeks ago, and was on the ground when the steel and aluminum tariffs were announced.
“Their buyers that we talked to — the importers and feed millers — they don’t want to see this happen,” Shipley said. “They need our soybeans and we need them. It’s a two-way street and we need each other.”
Sibley, Iowa, soybean farmer Brian Kemp played a role in cultivating the Chinese market for American soybeans. The past president of the ISA and a current ASA board member has taken three trade trips to China.
“We’ve spent a great deal of resources developing that China market and it’s a growing market for us — projected to be growing in future — and I am concerned about it,” Kemp said.
While Kemp admits the relationship isn’t perfect with China, he said officials from both countries should try negotiating through the World Trade Organization rather than going tit-for-tat.
“They are the ones that normally handle the disputes,” he said.
Goss said he understands why President Trump felt the need to implement the steel and aluminum tariffs and the additional tariffs that seek to punish China for stealing U.S. trade secrets, but he’s not so sure if this current course of action is the way to go.
“I hope it’s a negotiating strategy and not a hard line,” he said.
So far, Goss thinks China’s retaliatory actions have been muted; however, if things do continue to escalate, he says it would be bad for Iowa and its neighboring states.
“Pork's a big export product for Iowa and it creates lots of jobs and economic activity for Iowa — pork's already there — but soybeans would be a bigger thing,” he said.
The veteran economist compared the situation with China and the U.S. to a heavyweight boxing match.
“Both are going to get hurt, it’s just who gets hurt the most,” Goss said. “Both are going to get bloodied and we are seeing that right now. … I take issue with the idea that somehow there’s a clear winner and clear loser; how about two losers.”
SIOUX CITY | More than 20,000 people stopped by Cone Park this winter, exceeding attendance expectations for the brand-new attraction's first year.
A preliminary report shared Wednesday with the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board showed 20,252 people paid for admission or private rentals at the park during the winter season, which began in mid-December and ended March 11.
Recreation supervisor Eric Griffith said the number was higher than the attendance forecast in a previous study, as well as the number estimated by parks staff.
"We estimated 18,000 and we ended up with over 20,000," Griffith said. "That's awesome."
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said weekends especially were continually packed at the park.
"The weekdays were a little bit slower, but the weekends were just slammed," he said. "We were -- especially in the afternoon -- sold out probably more than we weren't."
Revenue at the park covered 82.7 percent of its expenses over the winter, according to the report. The reason the park did not cover 100 percent was because of approximately $65,000 in one-time start-up costs.
The park brought in just over $221,000 in revenue through gift certificates, ticket sales, private rentals, ice skating and concessions during the winter season. The park had just over $267,000 in expenses, which included $64,476.41 in start-up costs, the majority of which included payments to snow-making contractors.
Salvatore said that the start-up expenses will decrease substantially next year.
"We had two guys for six weeks, that was $51,000. We'll probably use one guy for four weeks next year, and then we'll phase it out year three and do it all ourselves, so that will help the bottom line quite a bit," he said.
The park's season lasted 80 days -- 68 days of operation and 12 temporary closures -- before closing for the season March 11. The skating rink, which will traditionally open before the tubing hill in future years, opened Feb. 3.
The park at 3800 Line Drive features a 700-foot tubing hill and refrigerated ice skating in the winter. In the summer, its day lodge is available for rent, and park-goers can enjoy a free splash pad and two-mile trail loop.
Salvatore told the board that parks staff plan to continue making improvements to the park for next winter. Those could include tweaks to the park's fee schedule and hours of operation, such as a possible park closure on Mondays. Those tweaks will be discussed in the future.
A full report on the attendance and financials will be shared with the City Council in the near future.