Protecting our borders at all costs has been at the forefront of our country’s history, but the manpower and other resources needed to do so can be scarce — especially for our northern-most counties right here in our state — but Sen. John Hoeven is addressing the situation and attempting to further advance protection.
“These sheriffs on the northern border have to make up the additional manpower need when you don’t have border patrol out there, and these guys are covering a lot of ground and they’ve got their day job too,” Hoeven said.
Renville County Sheriff’s Department, along with Burke and Divide County Sheriff’s Offices, are each northern county agencies that help alongside Customs and Border Patrol.
During a roundtable discussion with Hoeven, the three departments shared their weaknesses and concerns around keeping the area safe.
“We need more help as far as securing our borders because our border patrol is so short-staffed,” Burke County Sheriff Shawn Brien said.
They say the shortage in the northern counties comes from a list of reasons like low hiring and retention rates, and also being forced to relocate.
“We have two border patrol agents that reside in Renville County. One of them is deployed to the southern border, so if you guys like statistics, that’s 50%,” Renville County Sheriff Roger Hutchinson said.
On top of a short staff is also the lack in enough technology and infrastructure.
“Like our Short Creek crossing that we’re going to, you’ll be able to see how easy access you are to come from Canada into the United States just by taking a prairie trail,” Brien said.
As part of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has been working to provide more than $1.3 billion in border infrastructure funding, securing over $100 million to deploy more technology, and introducing the bipartisan Customs and Border Patrol Hiring and Retention Innovation Act.
This legislation would require Homeland Security to improve the hiring and retention of CBP which he believes would relieve stress off county-border sheriff’s departments.
“Obviously we need more resources up here to get the job done,” Hoeven said.
All three county agencies say they’re seeing a fair amount of illegal border crossings annually.
Whether it’s drugs being smuggled over or other illegal activities, but with help from Hoeven, they believe they can slow this activity down.
“Any assistance we can get to stop this from happening, you know, we’ll take yesterday,” Divide County Sheriff Zachary Schroeder said.
Currently, northern county agencies are using the federal program Operation Stonegarden that provides funding for local law enforcement officers to work overtime shifts along the border as well as provide a little funding for equipment, but Hoeven says that’s not enough.