PIERRE — Mexican drug cartels are operating within the borders of South Dakota, endangering its citizens because the Biden administration has failed to secure the southern border, Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday, Jan. 31.
An impassioned speech on the state of the U.S.-Mexico border by Noem honed in on how the crisis thousands of miles away is impacting the Mount Rushmore State, sketching out how she intends to respond.
“The cartels are here in South Dakota, and they are perpetuating violence and criminal activity daily on South Dakota families,” Noem said during a rare joint address to the Legislature. “They are killing our children with their drugs and trafficking.”
Proof of cartel activity could be found especially on South Dakota’s reservations, Noem suggested. The governor credited a spike in murders in the Rapid City area to a gang called the Ghost Dancers, whom she said is affiliated with international drug organizations.
Noem specifically cited the Sisseton Wahpeton and Pine Ridge reservations, the latter of which has sued the federal government several times for failing to provide adequate safety resources to them.
Those crimes, reports the Oglala Sioux Tribe, are being reported mostly by “non-Native” individuals — Noem attributed to Mexican drug cartels.
“(The tribes) 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,” Noem continued. “I plan to support the tribe in this litigation.”
Noem puts blame on tribes, Bordeaux says
But Sen. Shawn Bordeaux, a tribal member and Democrat from Mission, said he imagined that cartels members have lots of money and doubted they wanted to live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, one of the poorest places in the nation. Bordeaux said cartel activity was probably active in Rapid City, via Denver.
Bordeaux said he took her comments as blaming the tribes.
“I’m offended she’s putting the blame on us,” he said.
Noem defended Texas’ right to defend its border, invoking the Constitution which allows states to defend themselves in the absence of federal help. To that end, she said she is willing to provide Texas with additional razor wire. Meanwhile, she said she is consulting with her adjutant general, secretary of public safety and other officials about what personnel decisions could be made to help Texas.
“Governor Noem made a statement today that all of the people coming across the southern border are criminals. We don’t agree,” said Minority Leader Rep. Oren Lesmeister in a news release issued by the South Dakota Democratic Party. “There are a lot of these people seeking asylum in the United States, trying to get away from poverty and other issues that they have to live and deal with everyday. There’s some good people that are coming across our border.”
The party also noted that immigration is good for South Dakota.
“National Bureau of Economic Research found that immigration has a positive impact on both innovation and growth within communities. With South Dakota’s workforce shortage and low unemployment rate, the state needs immigrants to help fill those jobs and sustain our agriculture, manufacturing, construction and hospitality industries,” according to the release.
Noem talking to Texas about ‘rules of engagement’
“I don’t want South Dakota soldiers to facilitate an invasion – I want them to stand up and stop it,” the governor continued. “So we are talking to Texas about what rules of engagement can look like to make sure that happens.”
Shortly after she concluded, both the House and Senate took up a resolution “affirming South Dakota’s support of the defense of the southern border.” The resolution failed to garner a Democratic vote — with the opposition party arguing that the border is a federal issue.