Gov. Noem’s Border Address to Joint Session of SD Legislature
By: Governor Kristi Noem
January 31, 2024
Lieutenant Governor Rhoden, Mr. Speaker, members of the House and Senate, and my fellow South Dakotans:
Thank you for calling this joint session of the legislative body today so I may address both chambers on a matter of grave importance to the people of South Dakota and the United States of America. It is no secret that our country is being overwhelmed with en masse illegal immigration. Nearly 10 million foreign nationals have broken federal law and infiltrated our country within the past 3 years, bringing with them drugs, trafficking, crime, and violence.
Our immigration system has long been a subject of discussion in this country, but the policies of the Biden Administration have elevated this to a national security crisis. Our history is proudly built on the stories of our ancestors who came to this country for opportunity and a new beginning. But today, many of those who are entering under the current policies of this administration are known terrorists, criminals, human traffickers, and drug cartel members. Because the federal government is facilitating the violation of federal law, vulnerable people from over 100 countries have heard the story of the open border, put their families in jeopardy, and have fallen victim to the atrocities of the Mexican cartels. Countries such as Venezuela have been known to empty out their prisons and mental institutions and send them to America. They are happy to let our open border be the solution to their problems and responsibilities.
We are a nation of laws. And our leaders should respect those laws.
South Dakota is directly affected by this invasion. We are affected by cartel presence on our tribal reservations; by the spread of drugs and human trafficking throughout our communities; and by the drain on our resources at the local, state, and federal level.
America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. But we weren’t always that way. Our nation started as nothing more than an idea – an idea that was so controversial that our Founding Fathers had to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to each other just to write it down.
That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.
In that powerful document, our Founding Fathers outlined certain facts, a list of injuries, that King George had perpetrated against the colonies. Those grievances included ways that he failed to protect the colonies, and how he used force to make the colonists less safe.
When the original 13 states ratified the Constitution just a few years later, they did so with the understanding that this document would allow them to keep themselves safe from external threats. They would not have done so if they did not have the power to defend themselves. Texas would not have joined the Union in 1845 if they did not have the power to defend themselves – they were still at risk of invasion from Mexico at that time.
Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution provides that “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion.” So who repels the invasions? Well, Article I, Section 8 provides “for calling forth the Militia to…repel invasions.” Article I, Section 10 provides for states to enter into compacts with other states if they are “actually invaded.”
And in Federalist 29, Alexander Hamilton – one of the key architects of the Constitution – makes very clear that the militia is to be under the purview of the states and made up of the people. In closing that paper, Hamilton wrote, “In times of… invasion, it would be natural and proper that the militia of a neighboring State should be marched into another, to resist a common enemy, or to guard the republic against the violence of faction or sedition.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the United States of America is in a time of invasion – the invasion is coming over the southern border. The 50 states have a common enemy – that enemy is the Mexican drug cartels that are waging war against our nation. And the cartels are perpetrating violence in each of our states, even here in South Dakota.
For almost 250 years America has been the standard of a government of, by, and for the people. But today, the American people are not secure. A nation without borders is not a nation at all. A government that does not value the security of its people is not only negligent but inhumane.
When the federal government fails to uphold its duty to the people, the responsibility falls to the states. I have been to the Southern Border many times. Some of you have, too. I have witnessed firsthand the invasion taking place. What shocks me is that every time I go, it is more of a warzone than the time before. The cartels have operational control of that border.
For three years, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been left to handle the crisis at the border in his state while the federal government has refused his requests for help. Only a few governors have been willing to step up and lead alongside him. Last week, Governor Abbott declared an invasion under Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution to invoke Texas’ constitutional right to defend and protect itself.
While I was at the border last week, I received a briefing from border patrol agents. They informed me that over the last several months as many as 4,000 apprehensions occur in just ONE DAY at Eagle Pass alone. December was the first month in American history with more than 300,000 encounters at the Southern Border.
Almost three years ago, when Governor Abbott asked states to send troops to help secure the border, South Dakota was the first state in the nation to send National Guard soldiers to help. We later deployed our Lakota helicopters on a federal mission when the Biden Administration needed help with surveillance of drug traffickers. Last summer, when Governor Abbott again asked for assistance, we sent more troops.
During my time there this past Friday, I was able to see with my own eyes what has changed. Texas has been calling their efforts and mission “Operation Lone Star.” But more recently, the cartels have been pushing women and children across the Rio Grande, many of whom cannot swim. They’re telling them that if they turn back, they will be shot before they reach the Mexican shore. When many of these women and children struggle and inevitably drown in the high waters, Texas DPS is pulling them out of the water, performing CPR, and bringing them back to life. This has been happening so frequently that Texas has begun calling their efforts “Operation Lazarus.” So why are the cartels intentionally causing these women and children to drown? Because while Texas is distracted saving their lives, cartel members are smuggling drugs and sex-trafficked human beings just a couple miles down the river.
During my visit to Shelby Park, I watched as the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas National Guard, and various law enforcement officers ensured the border invasion didn’t happen on their watch. And their efforts are working there. But the Biden Administration is threatening to seize control of that area. They claim that the Supreme Court gave them authority to do so. That’s not true – the Supreme Court’s order only allows them to cut or move the razor wire.
Democrat politicians are urging President Biden to federalize the Texas National Guard. If he were to do that, if he were to put them on Title 10 federal active duty, it would be the first time in American history that a President activated American armed forces explicitly to stand down – to make us less safe – to NOT protect the United States of America. And if President Biden can do that to Texas, he can do it to South Dakota – or any other state.
Governors are Commanders in Chief of our National Guards. These soldiers report to us, not the federal government. We understand our unique situations better than a distant federal authority can. I trust Governor Abbott to make the best decisions for his National Guard, just as I make the best decisions for ours here in South Dakota.
You may be sitting there wondering, “why should care? Texas is a long ways away and my community and my state are not affected by this.”
You would be wrong.
The sheer number of illegal migrants coming into the country has made it so that every state is now a border state. This isn’t just an issue for Texas and other states along the border. This is an issue for every American. And this issue is about preserving this great nation for our kids and our grandkids.
We see the effects of Joe Biden’s failures at the border every day here in South Dakota. The drugs and human trafficking pouring over the border devastate our people. Make no mistake, the cartels have a presence on several of South Dakota’s tribal reservations. Murders are being committed by cartel members on the Pine Ridge reservation and in Rapid City, and a gang called the “Ghost Dancers” are affiliated with these cartels. They have been successful in recruiting tribal members to join their criminal activity. On the other side of the state, there is documented evidence of cartel activities on the Sisseton Wahpeton reservation and others.
We in state government do not have the jurisdiction to unilaterally intervene and provide law enforcement support to our tribes. That is a treaty obligation of the federal government. The Oglala Sioux Tribe sued the federal government. They pointed to evidence that the level of violent crime, drug trafficking, and gang activity on the Reservation is staggering, unprecedented, and overwhelming law enforcement resources. A federal judge ordered the Biden Administration to come to the table and work with the Oglala Sioux Tribe to provide the desperately needed law enforcement resources. But Biden has failed to make good on that obligation, so now the Oglala Sioux Tribe is suing again. They said that these crimes were being perpetrated primarily by “non-Native” individuals. They’re talking about the cartels.
I plan to support the tribe in this litigation. I previously met with President Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, to urge him to do what he could to help, but that progress did not carry over to the Biden Administration. Even before that, when I was in Congress, I raised alarm bells with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on this matter. I have signed law enforcement Memorandums of Agreement with some of our Native American tribes and stand ready to work with tribes who have not yet partnered with us.
The cartels are using our reservations to facilitate the spread of drugs throughout the Midwest. In particular, fentanyl – which is being manufactured by the Chinese and smuggled over our Southern Border – is causing these deaths. Total overdoses have increased by almost 20% across America since Joe Biden took office. Despite this hopelessness, South Dakota has been a bright spot. We led the nation for the largest decline in drug overdoses in 2020, and we led it again in 2022. Our anti-meth and anti-opioid campaigns are working. But even with that success, a higher share of the overdoses that do occur are happening as a result of fentanyl. There has been a 40% increase in just the past 2 years. It is literally killing our children.
This war is primarily being fought at the southern border, but it affects us here in South Dakota, too. We might see the effects differently than Texas, but make no mistake – the open border affects everyone. It is South Dakota’s duty to protect OUR people.
So why am I standing before all of you today?
Because as we move forward with action, I want us to be united. We are willing to provide Texas with additional razor wire. We can load that up and send it their way very quickly. We are currently exploring various legal options to support Texas and force the federal government to do their job. And I am consulting with my Adjutant General, Secretary of Public Safety, and others as to what our options are to provide personnel.
We sent our National Guard soldiers because the border is a warzone – and soldiers are best equipped to operate in such a situation. However, our troops have been hampered by federal restrictions when they’ve been deployed to the border in the past. I don’t want South Dakota soldiers to facilitate an invasion – I want them to stand up and stop it. So we are talking to Texas about what rules of engagement can look like to make sure that happens.
We will do all that we can to defend the United States of America so that we can keep it safe for our kids and grandkids. There is no other nation in the world that is better or more free. And if we lose this country, where will we go? Every American throughout history has had the responsibility to preserve, protect, and proliferate the ideals upon which our Founders built this nation. This is a test of our endurance. It is a test of our patriotism. And it is a test of the very foundation of our nation.
But we have been tested before. Just since I have been Governor of South Dakota, we have seen the federal government try to take away our Freedoms. And we saw other states comply and force citizens to give up their Freedom of Assembly, their Freedom of Religion, and even at times their Freedom of Speech. Not here in South Dakota.
Now we need to be prepared to stand united to protect our state’s constitutional right to defend ourselves. Defend our people. I am proud to support what Texas is doing to defend itself because I realize the consequences of what will happen if they don’t. You need to know the facts. It is clear we cannot rely on this administration to uphold the law and secure our border. The cartels are here in South Dakota, and they are perpetuating violence and criminal activity daily on South Dakota families. They are killing our children with their drugs and trafficking. These cartels are being fed from over the open southern border where more dangerous individuals are entering the country to destroy America from within.
We must stand strong together. South Dakota will protect our people.
Thank you. God bless you all. God bless South Dakota. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.