DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts joined eight other Republican governors on at the U.S.-Mexico border to criticize Democratic President Joe Biden's handling of immigration issues.
The governors called on Biden to take a number of actions, including building a border wall supported by former Republican President Donald Trump, requiring those seeking asylum to remain in Mexico instead of being allowed into the United States and prohibiting the entry of anyone who potentially poses a health risk.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protections, officials encountered over 200,000 migrants at the boarder in August. Reports are limited for how many illegal migrants currently live in the U.S. As of 2018, a Homeland Security report estimated that number may be as high as 11 million, with most living in California, Texas and Florida.
During the visit, Ricketts argued policies at the border impact the rest of the country. Specifically, he pointed to the "catch and release policy, which he says contributes to health hazards.
"So if you think about what's going on here, as reports have shown 18% of the families that are coming here illegally and being released are testing positive for COVID-19," said Ricketts. "And when it comes to the unaccompanied minors, that's 20%."
Ricketts said because the federal government has failed to properly reinforce the border, states like Nebraska are stepping up and providing their own state troopers and assisting with law enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border.
When Reynolds spoke at the border, she blamed illegal border crossings for a surge of drug seizures in Iowa. She says a lack of communications with governors has placed additional strain on state resources.
Reynolds accused the federal government of transporting migrants to her state without notice.
"In April we had 15 unaccompanied minor girls that were flown into the Des Moines airport in the middle of the night, and then they were boarded on charter buses. And so we were concerned that it was human trafficking," said Reynolds. "So, we used our own resources to investigate the plane that had 19 young women being dropped off in the state of Iowa and moved to charter buses."
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said in a statement that Reynolds' trip to the border was nothing more "than a political stunt and a distraction from her failed leadership." Reynolds responded that Biden "overturned all the policies that worked."
KTIV reached out to the governor's office to learn more about the cost of the trip. Their response was:
"The governor’s trip to the border is an official office visit. The Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, a 501c4, is providing transportation to Texas. The State of Iowa is paying for lodging for the Governor and her staff in the amount of approximately $500."Alex Murphy, Communications Director for Governor Reynolds.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was also scheduled to visit the border, but she canceled the trip. A spokesperson for the governor says she stayed in South Dakota to focus on the response to the Auburn Fire.
The fire was initially reported Monday afternoon near the Auburn Hills neighborhood, with high wind gusts and dry grass fueling its spread.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.