Texas’ Greg Abbott isn’t the only Republican governor carrying out a stunt at the southern border in recent days. In fact, South Dakota’s Kristi Noem has maybe managed to one-up him, by deploying 50 National Guard troops to the border thanks to a “private donation” from a Tennessee-based billionaire megadonor who made his cash from used cars and gave more than half a million dollars to the previous president’s campaign, The Washington Post reports

The report said that the Republican billionaire megadonor, Willis Johnson, has also donated to the National Rifle Association, which in January filed for bankruptcy. (Thoughts and prayers.) When contacted by the Post, “Johnson said his donation ‘100 percent’ was meant to fund the border deployment.” He would not say how much he gave, if it was his idea or Noem’s. What is clear is that apparently with the right connections and bank account, you too can bankroll your own private mercenaries.

Noem similarly refused to release specifics, claiming in a statement that “[f]or operational security reasons, specific names of units, number of members, and mission specifics will not be released.” While federal troops can’t assist in federal immigration enforcement, things seem to be murkier in this situation because they’re under Noem’s command, Slate reported. Nor have National Guard troops made clear if they’re voluntarily going to Texas, or are under order, the Post said.

“Privately funding a military mission is an affront to civilian oversight of the armed forces, said military and oversight experts, describing the move—a Republican governor sending troops to a Republican-led state, paid for by a Republican donor—as likely unprecedented and unethical,” the report said. I mean, are we still supposed to be surprised by Republicans? And, frustratingly, so much of the mainstream reporting is still falling for the Republicans’ border talking points, hook, line, and sinker.

American Immigration Council policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick points to a Wednesday report from CBS This Morning that claims, “Former President Trump visits the Texas-Mexico border today to highlight a recent jump in illegal immigration.” Reichlin-Melnick debunks this, writing that “[a]pprehensions fell from April to May, fewer people have crossed in 2021 than in 2019, and 200,000+ fewer *families* have come to the border than in 2019. These incredibly important facts—which completely undermine the ‘Biden’s empathy caused this’ claim—are not mentioned once.”

“The piece says that Abbott is deploying State Troopers ‘to fight the rising immigration numbers,’ when displayed over a video of a raft filled with families,” he continues. “But again, the number of families coming is less than half 2019, and also peaked two months ago!” It’s almost like none of the Republican claims are serious, and Abbott, in the midst of a primary challenge against another right-winger, would rather talk about those oh-so-scary asylum-seekers than about an electric grid in crisis and Texans being charged thousands of dollars in utility bills

When it comes to Noem, military policy expert Katherine L. Kuzminski told the Post that the private deployment just so happens to allow her to do away with some of those pesky transparency issues. Surely a coincidence. If this were a real emergency, Noem could have federalized the troops, Kuzminski said. Instead, a deployment through private funds “sidesteps potential questions from her constituents about the deployment’s cost and purpose,” the report said. I think I speak for many others when I say, how in the fuck is this an actual thing? 

“A Tennessee billionaire and high-dollar Republican donor is funding the deployment of South Dakota National Guard troops to the U.S. Mexico border,” the South Dakota Democratic Party tweeted. “Kristi Noem is bought and paid for, and now she has sold out our National Guard.” In Texas, border community leaders and members issued an open letter to Abbott and the previous president, slamming their visit on Wednesday. In recent days, four Rio Grande Valley counties also refused to participate in Abbott’s so-called border “disaster declaration.”

“We will not tolerate your deliberate attempts to pit Texans against each other,” the open letter said. “We cannot in good conscience allow that the well-being of some communities be sacrificed under the false claim it will help others who are supposedly ‘more deserving’. We are all Texans, whether we have been here for generations, or just arrived seeking asylum, and comprise one big Texas family. And as family, we welcome those seeking refuge to our New Ellis Island, and call on you to, as well.”

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