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Noem’s Border Guards Bored, Broke Tedium Playing Flashlight Tag with Migrants

We’ve known all along that Governor Kristi Noem was deploying our National Guard to the southern border for costly political photo opps, not real national defense. The intrepid Stephen Groves of the Associated Press gets emails from Guards themselves affirming that Noem dispatched our troops to mostly twiddle their thumbs while Noem played generalissima:

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem described the U.S. border with Mexico as a “war zone” last year when she sent dozens of state National Guard troops there, saying they’d be on the front lines of stopping drug smugglers and human traffickers.

But records from the Guard show that in their two-month deployment, the South Dakota troops didn’t seize any drugs. On a handful of occasions, they suspected people of scouting for lapses in their patrols, but mission logs don’t contain any confirmed encounters with “transnational criminals.” And a presentation from the deployment noted that Mexican cartels were assessed to be a “moderate threat” but were “unlikely” to target U.S. forces.

Some days, the records show, the troops had little if anything to do.

“Very slow day. No encounters. It has been 5 days since last surrender,” wrote one Guard member whose name was redacted from a situation report created as the deployment neared its end in September 2021 [Stephen Groves, “‘Slow Day’: Guard Emails Don’t Match Noem Border ‘War’ Talk,” AP, 2022.11.04].

Noem claimed “the scope of the drug smuggling and human trafficking” at the border was “staggering”, but the Guards somehow didn’t see much evidence of either criminal activity:

During the two-month deployment, Guard members reported spotting 11 people they deemed to be scouting for lapses in surveillance. On another occasion recorded in the logs, Guard members pointed flashlights at five people with backpacks crossing the Rio Grande who then retreated. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Marlette, the head of South Dakota’s Guard, later told a South Dakota legislative committee they were likely carrying drugs.

Those were the only times the Guard members reported suspected drug trafficking [Groves, 2022.11.04].

The world would be a better place if all war zones limited combatants to playing flashlight tag.

The world would also be a better place with governors who did not lie and who only deployed the National Guard on necessary missions that make a practical difference in keeping South Dakotans safe.


  1. grudznick 2022-11-06 07:57

    That the drug trafficking and human smuggling dropped so staggeringly during this time shows you how much those illegal druggie aliens feared our boys in green and camouflage trousers.

  2. Loren 2022-11-06 08:09

    Cory, you have got to give us an eye-roll emoji to use after Grudge’s posts. It would be the kindest way to reply.

  3. O 2022-11-06 08:23

    One must wonder if Governor Noem had deployed the SD Guard for the Sturgis Rally would she would have uncovered more evidence of drug and human trafficking? Maybe a blue-state governor could deploy her national guard troops for that political bombast in the future?

  4. John 2022-11-06 09:56

    The imaginary, fanciful notion that walking border crossers are drug mules is ludicrous. First, they’d have to carry sustenance, at least water, perhaps a bit of food, maybe shelter. Most border crossers have little more than the shirt on their backs – not packs laden with goods from 3d world countries. Second, drug smuggling is an industrial strength enterprise to make it economical. Drug smuggling arrives via industrial conveyances: trucks, rail, ship, submarine, tunnels with rails, and airplanes.

    What South Dakota and the US needs is immigrants – by the tens of and hundreds of thousands. We have demographic holes in the 20 to 40 year old worker demographic. Unfortunately, just when SD and the US most needs immigrants, we’ve turned decidedly against immigrants.

    “The Migrant Integration Policy Index measures policies to integrate migrants in dozens of countries around the world. As of 2019, the United States is in the top 10, but in the bottom half. In general between 2014 and 2019, the average country studied improved its score by two points. The United States on the other hand retreated by two points.

    The story is largely one of the rise of the rest. Countries such as Canada have long been welcoming to immigrants but have gotten even better. Any would-be immigrant with technical skills and strong academic standing knows that it is easier to get a green card equivalent in Canada or Britain (or Ireland or Sweden) than in the United States these days. And since the Trump crackdown in every area of immigration — from business visas to work permits — the experience has become even more hellish and demeaning for people trying to move to the United States.

    Others have also become far more tolerant. If you look at a recent Pew Research Center survey on attitudes toward national identity, you see that major European countries are becoming more tolerant and inclusive. The percentage who say that to truly belong you need to be born in that country is about the same in Britain, France and the United States. (Germany is even lower.) And those who say you have to be Christian to belong make up 14 percent in France, 20 percent in Britain, 23 percent in Germany and a high of 35 percent in the United States.

    America has had distinct advantages compared with other countries that have allowed it to thrive — an open market, business-friendly policies — but many of these have been copied by other countries. I always believed that being truly welcoming to immigrants was America’s last and greatest competitive advantage. It does appear that now others are catching up or even beating the United States at a game that it invented.”

    gift article:

  5. Mark Anderson 2022-11-06 11:03

    I guess all those dealing drugs wouldn’t ever think to bring in drugs all along our border to the north. It’s a couple of thousand more miles in length, no border wall, less populated, why would they? I’m sure all those North Dakotan’s have their border secured “for sure”. Grizzlies in Montana keep them out, the Idaho Roosville Boys all have AR-15s so no go there… now Washington and Minnesota are full of liberals, porous for sure. Michigan is a toss, good Trumpies up North. East of there are too many damn Democrats. Gosh do you think any smuggling is going on in Vermont?

  6. All Mammal 2022-11-06 12:05

    Maybe the governor of New Jersey senses there is meth in his or her state. Next thing we know, SD is inundated with NJ National Guardsmen because our governor announced we’re on meth. They have fast cars and will want to speed on our roads to kill the time.

    What a bad practice our gov has invented. The popular claims made by all R candidates in the debates are bunk. They say the sheriffs tell them all the violence is caused by drugs from the southern border. I know for a fact that is a lie. There have been killings in Rapid City committed over Trump arguments.

    On Friday, Thune fibbed when he said fentanyl is the number one leading cause of death for kids and young people in the US. We all know that is false. Gun violence is the number one killer of kids in America.

    Maybe other countries should send their troops to police us due to our guns spilling into their home to commit murders on their families. Maybe Mexico should flush us out of their country because they don’t want our drug seeking criminality near them.

    Our governor is a racist and she is gaining something from this fiasco we have yet to fully uncover.

  7. leslie 2022-11-06 12:59

    Paramilitary militia enabler Noem (w/her camo capped second amendment state funded media press agency/studio hysteria with flamethrowers) needs to stay out of national border policy!

    “U.S. officials have not had an easy way to expel Venezuelans arriving at the border. Washington [TRUMP/GOP Nazis] cut off diplomatic relations with the government of President Nicolas Maduro in 2019, so it cannot send them back home.”

    This is b.s. that American Border agents are SHOOTING Venezuelans etc!!! in Republican Texas and Arizona. South Dakota National Guard are political pawns of a failed authoritarian tantrum every single god-dammed Republican voter has been responsible for. I thought we learned this when horse backed agents reins-whipped migrants last summer!

    ENOUGH! You do NOT DESERVE TO BE FORGIVEN AND WELCOMED BACK TO THE FOLD after your Republican Party for the Billionaires wakes up and pulls its head out of its a**.

  8. Richard Schriever 2022-11-06 13:16

    grudz – “That the drug trafficking and human smuggling dropped so staggeringly during this time…..” Can you present us with some actual statistical evidence to support this claim? Absent such, yours is simply another vacuous parroting bit of political rhetoric, unrelated to actual problems or solutions. As ususal.

  9. Donald Pay 2022-11-06 13:41

    O is correct. The rally is far more dangerous to the safety of South Dakotans, than the poor, terrorized mothers with children who cross the border to escape their gangster-ridden existence in Central America. Those caravans of bikers who flood South Dakota each year bring a tidal wave of drugs and trafficked women and girls. I’m not sure some of the bikers are all that different from the gangster cartels in Mexico. In fact, all those drugs the cartels are pumping up from the border are largely to satisfy those who come to the rally, all at Noem’s invitation.

    At one point the rally was about motorcycles, and races. Sometime in the 1980s it became about drugs and prostitution. If Noem needs a place to gain credibility, she could use the Guard to clean up the sleaze in Sturgis and the surrounding Black Hills during the first week in August.

  10. larry kurtz 2022-11-06 13:57

    A 2015 shootout in Waco, Texas between the Bandidos and Cossacks resulted in the deaths of and injuries to several members of motorcycle clubs encouraged by a law enforcement industry that benefits from programs like Policing for Profit. Nobody was ever convicted because Texas has a “stand your ground” law.

    That Serenity Dennard was lured away by Bandidos with help from the Children’s Home Society crossed my mind very early in her disappearance.

  11. leslie 2022-11-06 15:07

    Noem’s second amendment stupidity reflects “Patriots” Tepublican leadership, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, and stray wanna-be militia incursion at Bundyville over unpaid grazing fees near Las Vegas and later at the social media militia takeover of Federal Wildlife facilities near Burns OR. The militia was elated by their surprise, heavily-armed, surround and confrontation w/ similarly armed, authorized FBI at their Burns airport compound. @1:00

    Noem needs to get on the right side of Republican insanity.

  12. bearcreekbat 2022-11-06 15:45

    According to CDC statistics, if accurate, cited by an editorial contributor to the New England Journal of Medicine, All Mammal is 100% correct in observing that

    “Gun violence is the number one killer of kids in America.

    The NEJM contributor describes these circumstances as follows:

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released updated official mortality data that showed 45,222 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2020 — a new peak.1 Although previous analyses have shown increases in firearm-related mortality in recent years (2015 to 2019), as compared with the relatively stable rates from earlier years (1999 to 2014),2,3 these new data show a sharp 13.5% increase in the crude rate of firearm-related death from 2019 to 2020.1 This change was driven largely by firearm homicides, which saw a 33.4% increase in the crude rate from 2019 to 2020, whereas the crude rate of firearm suicides increased by 1.1%.1 Given that firearm homicides disproportionately affect younger people in the United States,3 these data call for an update to the findings of Cunningham et al. regarding the leading causes of death among U.S. children and adolescents.4

    The previous analysis, which examined data through 2016, showed that firearm-related injuries were second only to motor vehicle crashes (both traffic-related and nontraffic-related) as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, defined as persons 1 to 19 years of age.4 Since 2016, that gap has narrowed, and in 2020, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death in that age group (Figure 1). From 2019 to 2020, the relative increase in the rate of firearm-related deaths of all types (suicide, homicide, unintentional, and undetermined) among children and adolescents was 29.5% — more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population. The increase was seen across most demographic characteristics and types of firearm-related death. . . .

  13. bearcreekbat 2022-11-06 16:37

    I am not sure where Donald Pay gets this information:

    The rally is far more dangerous to the safety of South Dakotans, than the poor, terrorized mothers with children who cross the border to escape their gangster-ridden existence in Central America. Those caravans of bikers who flood South Dakota each year bring a tidal wave of drugs and trafficked women and girls.

    Although the terrorized women and children seeking the help of Americans by crossing the border pose lliterally no threat to anyone, the danger from rogue law enforcement agents, vigilantes, and other self appointed haters of helping people from other countries that are hurting likely pose a substantial threat to anyone that gets in their way.

    As for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, I note that there were approximately one half million people that attended the 2022 Rally. The number of reported drug arrests were:

    148 people were arrested on misdemeanor drug charges, slightly lower from 151 last year. Felony drugs arrests were also down this year with 103, compared to 112 last year.

    If my math is correct, there were a total of 260 felony and misdeanor drung arrests out of 500,000 visitors for a percentage of 0.00052, not exactly a “tidal wave” of drug crimes.

    But wait, there is more since apparently

    . . . most of these drug possession misdemeanors are due to marijuana possession from states that have legalized it.

    Since any involvement with fentanyl and similar drugs from possession by ingestion on up is defined by SD law as a felony, we can reasonably eliminate all misdemeanor arrests from our calculation which changes the percentage to about 0.000206 felony arrests out of 500,000 bikers and vistors to the Rally.

    Granted many drug crimes are never detected despite the stepped up law enforcement at the Rally, yet these arrest numbers do not seem to support theories of Donald about “caravans of bikers” carrying on a “tidal wave” of criminal drug activity on at the Rally.

    As for “sex trafficking” crimes, the only reports I could find indicated law enforcement arrested 6 people out of 500,000 attendees.

    Again, some sex trafficking crime undoubtedly go undetected, yet one might reasonably expect substantially more arrests than 6 out of 500,000 if there were in fact caravans of sex traffickers coming to the Sturgis Rally.

    Extrapolating the crimes of a few bad actors to hundreds of thousands of people that attend the Sturgis Rally reminds me of blaming hundreds of thousands of immigrants for the crimes of a few immigrant bad actors. Neither seems justified in fact.

  14. larry kurtz 2022-11-06 16:52

    Gee bat, the Rally is an exercise in selective enforcement and I was an eyewitness to that for 27 years. If that has changed it’s because the worst stuff is hidden better.

  15. larry kurtz 2022-11-06 16:56

    Whenever two or more are gathered in Trump’s name he is there in the midst of them plotting a time when there will be blood on the tracks.

  16. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-06 17:26

    Richard Schriever:

    Tangentially, I was stationed at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, for six glamorous, fabulous, and fun-filled months during my Army Advanced Individual Training and lived in a leaky, decrepit women’s barrack; its only virtue was it was built higher than ground level to discourage the bloody effn scorpions.

    I mention this because Ft. Huachuca is right next door to Nogales. The only people I was scared of were my fellow service members (predominantly White) who routinely crossed the border and came back impaired and with drugs they seriously wanted to sell me. SERIOUSLY.

    I never once saw a “Messican” rapist, drug-smuggler, or illegal border crosser; Noem is a delusional moron, spent lots of SD tax monies, and I feel bad for our state national guard troops.

    Reptilian fear-mongering at Trump’s worst.

  17. O 2022-11-06 17:48

    bearcreekbat, not to quibble, but let me change the framework of the question: what if national guard were sent in to LOOK for trafficking in drugs and people? What if they poked their noses a bit deeper into the corners that law enforcement cannot (because of the immense size and scope of the event)? What if checkpoints were set up at the boarder? What would be the estimate of the number of potential turnarounds?

    I can still remember a time when the Governor pointed an accusatory finger at the rally when her issue was human trafficking — back before she needed the rally to be a bastion of freedom to show her state “open for business.” Even hunting season came under suspicion for a time; I would guess until that negative attention also became bad for business.

  18. grudznick 2022-11-06 18:39

    To be fair to all, Ms. Fairbank’s story happened a very, very long time ago, and the world has changed except for in Hot Springs.

    To also be fair to all, we none of us want the illegal fellows bringing crimes and drugs to South Dakota. Not even to Hot Springs, because from there they will come north.

  19. bearcreekbat 2022-11-06 18:54

    larry, I don’t doubt that you witnessed cases of selective enforcement, yet unless you witnessed or had other evidence of some massive number of such cases, it seems unlikely that anecdotal episodes could change the numbers analysis in any meaningful way of the activities of a half milliuon bikers and visitors.

    And, O I can understand the attraction to speculate that if the National Guard were sent to look for drug or human trafficking there is a possibility that they would find much more such illegal activity. Yet, such speculation must be tempered in light of the fact about the actual annual increase in current law enforcement efforts hired to respond to the Rally.

    The Rapid City Journal reports law enforcement agencies in Meade and Pennington counties are hiring more officers, temporarily opening a second jail and keeping a courthouse open seven days a week.. . . [And that] they come from South Dakota, North Dakota, Colorado, Minnesota and other states.

    Another news report indicates:

    Each year since at least 2014, the city of Sturgis has included about $300,000 in police expenses for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

    The city has included about $286,000 in its 2022 budget for police rally expenses, according to the 2022 budget published on the city’s website.

    The money helps to pay additional officers who become 10-day members of the Sturgis Police Department during the 10 days of the rally.

    Sturgis Police Chief Geody VanDewater cited safety reasons for not sharing how many officers are added for those 10 days. VanDewater did say the 17-person police department expands to become the third or fourth largest police department in the state during the rally.

    And don’t forget federal and multi-state highway patrol and federal drug interdiction units that regularly stop cars and bikes along the highways and Interstate and search for drugs, often with dogs. Courts have generally ruled that if there are any grounds to stop a vehicle, including subjective officer observations or claims like a dirty license plate, that during the stop another officer may walk a drug dog around the car without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of drug activity as long as the officer writing the ticket for whatever minor offense is allegedf is not unduly prolonged. And if the dog alerts the vehicle is normally impounded and torn apart looking for the hidden drugs. And it is a normal practice to keep a drug dog is usually only a few minutes away to respond to a request by the officer making the stop.

    Given the amped up local police forces, the multistate federal and state highway patrol drug interdiction units, et al, what more could the National Guard lawfully do anyway?

    Unfortunately, labeling Rally bikers and visitors based on criminal and degenerate stereotypes seems unjustified based on the reported numbers of drug and sex crimes compared to the attendance numbers. And as I wrote earlier, unfair stereotyping really does remind me of one reason too many people unfairly judge decent people who happen to be immigrants, including the very women and children mentioned at the border.

  20. bearcreekbat 2022-11-06 19:00

    O, as an aside the SCOTUS has recently ruled that checkpoint stops for drug interdiction violate of the 4th Amendment.

    In City of Indianapolis v. Edmond,’ the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of a drug interdiction program operated in Indianapolis. The Supreme Court held that the drug interdiction Checkpoints were unconstitutional violations of the Fourth Amendment because the primary purpose of the checkpoints was general crime control.

  21. grudznick 2022-11-06 19:27

    Mr. bat, grudznick witnessed my close personal friend Lar agonizing over the rally for 27 years. I wish he would come back, but it is tougher and tougher for him to sneak back, under cover of darkness, to get to our old haunts or even Belle. It is the saddening reality when fellows like Lar and grudznick grow older.

  22. cibvet 2022-11-07 00:18

    As someone who has witnessed the rally up close for many years, “selective enforcement” is a very apt description of the rally.
    The idea of arresting someone involves a lot of paperwork and the job pays the same minus any paperwork.
    Safety in numbers and they know it.

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-11-07 05:54

    Noem should send the National Guard to Joel Koskan’s house.

  24. M 2022-11-07 06:23

    O, that is a great comparison. Noem promotes the rally and turns a blind eye to the drugs and sex trafficking.

    Remember the tunnels that have been dug under Douglas, AZ and many other areas. Best way to smuggle. Most Republicans won’t admit that border guards can run a lucrative business allowing trucks and small vehicles through the border entries. And the fact that the U.S. produces a great deal of its own meth and grows a huge amount of its own weed proves Noem has no clue.

    And let’s not forget the guns and ammo that the U.S. smuggles to Mexico. Gee I wonder how all those narco gangs get American weapons.?

  25. V 2022-11-07 06:32

    When I drove to Baja California for catamaran races in the 80’s, people warned that I and friends may never return from such a vast expanse of desert. While in San Felipe and treated like royalty, we were warned not to take anything home with us. They were right. My last time, the tequila and kalua were confiscated coming home on the U.S. side. The guards ogled at the size of the gallon jugs and got greedy, claiming they were legally oversized. I’ve never!!!!

  26. V 2022-11-07 06:40

    bearcreekbat, some of the arrests and entertainment from the rally are recorded and televised. One of my neighbors watches the strippers, many young and drunk/drugged and the boob contests from the comfort of his own home. I have no clue what station it is, but I bet some of the readers know.

    The rally is a place where women are objectified. Any moral and decent person can see that.

  27. O 2022-11-07 08:17

    bearcreekbat, your statistical evidence persuades me that NO governor should send her National Guard into deployments to perpetuate ANY political mythology — no matter how embarrassing to the receiving entity.

    I would appreciate additional crowdsourcing-fact checking of my memory that the Governor scrutinized the Rally and even hunting season in SD when human trafficking was her go-to issue. Did that get solved, disproven, or dropped as conflicting with “open for business?”

  28. All Mammal 2022-11-07 10:39

    In light of the abundance of the organized crime our lawmen and lawmakers are involved in, it isn’t outside the vicinity of logic to assert the low conviction rates of crimes against women and children in SD (especially during Sturgis Bike Week) is due to police, legislators, etc being in on the crime or in some way are facilitating the offenses and ensuring the likelihood of the perpetrator to go unscathed (more so if they happen to be the perpetrator).

    The law and justice and responsibility for women and children are low priority in SD. Kids don’t tend to have money and women are the source of irritation for the men likely to be filling the jobs that keep law and order and identify threats.

    The protection of property of fellow man is relatable to lawmen. They tend to be biased in what commands their attention. They don’t have fear of being raped, so they don’t always take it that seriously. But if a brother’s truck gets stolen or his business gets burglarized, that warrants their top trained personnel to focus on catching the bad guy.

    We have a ways to go. As long as we have people peppered across our state who are concerned and aware and can easily look from opposing perspectives, our chances increase for accountability. In the jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.

  29. bearcreekbat 2022-11-07 10:44

    O, I agree 100%.

    V, I would speculate that your neighbor might watch some of these videos on youtube, which is a channel that he or she can connect the TV by Roku, and maybe other streaming devices. I think there are also some reality type TV shows about the Rally that are aired on one or more of the literally hundreds of cable channels now in existence. And many bars, such as Happy Jacks, are well known for marketing female partial nudity at the Rally, just as bars and strip clubs that exist year round locally and all over the nation.

    I also agree that both women and men objectify each other at the Rally much like so many people that objectify performers they see on television programs, the movies, and the internet every day, as well as the people they meet and see in real life on the streets or in public places. Indeed, in many respects the Rally seems a lot like a late night Halloween costume party at your local pub where objectification of each other seems to be the main goal. Although many folks might judge their neighbors, friends and family to be immoral if they engage in such partying activities, to the best of my knowledge these activities and party atmospheres are not the type of crimes and stereotyping that my earlier comment addressed. At least that would be the conclusion I would logically draw from the arrest records I have found.

    Obviously not all Rally bikers and Rally visitors participate in these activities, while it seems likely that the vast majority of men and women that do participate lead normal lives, holding down jobs, raising families, and generally obeying the laws. (Incidently, if Initiative 27 passes and marijuana is legalized in SD that will likely substantially increase the number of law-abiding South Dakotans).

  30. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-07 19:39

    ESAD, Grudz:

    To be HONEST TO ALL, my description of events at Ft. Huachuca DID occur when I was eighteen, way back when I was a shy, studious young woman during the Neolithic, fresh from a dairy farm in Minnesota, who aced Basic Training and was the Third Quarter Honor Trainee at Ft. Huachuca.

    To be HONEST TO ALL, I really don’t know what grudz’s second paragraph means.

    I am, however, eargerly anticipating Grudz’s description of his illustrious military career.

  31. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-07 19:51

    Oops. Misspelled “eagerly.” A member of this site shall certainly post about not getting my panties in a twist.

  32. grudznick 2022-11-07 19:53

    Some believe grudznick served time at the aptly named Libbie Army Airfield, right there by Ft. Huachuca, with an MOS in the fields of musical science and dance. Others believe it was an MOS in getting goats.

  33. Anne 2022-11-07 23:46

    The courtesy of trying to make sense of anything grudgnut says is misplaced.

  34. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-08 17:39

    Thank you, Anne.

  35. leslie 2022-11-30 07:14

    And SDNG TikTok too, no doubt (Noem’s Border Guards Bored, Broke Tedium Playing Flashlight Tag with Migrants)!

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