“We’re a border state”: Gov. Pillen discusses trip to Texas, looks ahead to special session


LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – Gov. Jim Pillen says what happens 1,000 miles away from here, in Del Rio, Texas, still hits close to home.

“I believe we’re a border state,” Gov. Pillen said. “I believe securing and keeping our people safe is the highest calling of government and what’s going on at the border is just a humanitarian crisis.”

That’s why he sent a group of 35 Nebraska National Guardsmen there in April to bolster efforts to deter drug and human trafficking through the U.S.-Mexico border. Pillen visited the deployed unit earlier this week.

Pillen said states are stepping up where the federal government has failed, though he acknowledged the federal government is footing most of the 90-day expedition’s bill, leaving Nebraskans saddled with about $1.5 million to pay.

Two state lawmakers, Speaker of the Legislature John Arch and State Sen. Tom Brewer, joined Pillen on the trip this Wednesday.

“If you are slowing, because I don’t think you’ll ever stop, the transfer of drugs out of Mexico into the United States, it hits here,” Brewer said. “I mean, how many times do you hear about fentanyl overdoses?”

The state leaders said the guardsmen were in high spirits, and they will return after three more weeks on border watch.

“I thought it was important to go down and show that the legislature supports the troops,” Arch said. “They have a sense of duty, and they are serving us.”

The mission is about deterring the cartels, not immigration per se. Pillen separates the vast majority of migrants seeking a better life from criminals.

“Folks from Latin America and Mexico that have immigrated over the last 30 years, they’ve enriched our communities,” Pillen said.

On the home front, Pillen will have a busy summer, rallying support for his promise to axe property tax bills by 40%. He said it’s still his plan to call a special session.

“Certainly the goal is to be able to have the session before school starts,” Pillen said.

It’s an issue made more pressing as property valuations roll in.

“There will be a big jump in assessed values, and we have to deal with that,” Arch said.

Pillen said, in his recent series of town halls, he’s heard many stories of people being priced out of their homes.

“Time is killing us,” Pillen said. “This ‘Nebraska nice’ is killing us. It’s time that we listen to the people and not the lobbyists. The people in Nebraska are outraged everywhere I go.”

The U.S.-Mexico boarder has been in the headlines for a while now, and some Nebraska service members are in the thick of it.

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