Auto Scrap Billionaire Who Paid To Send National Guard To Southern Border Sounds Off On Why He Did It

Willis Johnson in a video promoting his book, Junk To Gold (Screengrab/YouTube)

The auto scrap billionaire who is funding South Dakota’s deployment of national guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border told TPM in an interview that he was making the contribution because “this President would rather help other countries than help America.”

“I fought in Vietnam and a lot of my buddies died over there,” Willis Johnson told TPM in a Tuesday phone conversation. “And now we’ve got people saying we can’t even protect our own borders.”

“This President would rather help other countries than help America,” he added.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) announced on Tuesday that a private donor was financing the deployment of 50 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas as part of an effort to “secure our border.”

Noem spokesman Ian Fury told TPM that the donor was Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation, as first reported by Business Insider and Axios. When TPM called a number listed for the Foundation for comment, Johnson picked up.

“God gave America to us and God can take it away,” Johnson added. “If our people don’t protect it, then I don’t know what’s gonna happen.”

Johnson is the founder of Copart, an auto salvage empire that he has reportedly built since returning from military service in the Vietnam War.

Neither Johnson nor Fury would tell TPM what amount of money had been contributed to finance the deployment, though both said that the deployment would last between 30 and 60 days. Johnson told TPM that he had reached out to Noem about financing the deployment because Noem “stood up for America.”

“I feel sorry for the Mexicans, but they need to come through the right channels,” Johnson added. “I love ’em, I just think they oughta follow the rules.”

He went on to claim that COVID-19 restrictions weren’t being applied evenly to illegal immigrants.

“Everybody is tied down from COVID-19 but they let them come over with no shots, no nothing, no coverings over their face,” Johnson said. “They ship them out to all the states, like I’m in Tennessee, they ship them out to Tennessee and they don’t ask the governor.”

“They just spread ’em everywhere and they don’t care about COVID-19,” he added.

Johnson’s contribution comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) circulated a letter on June 10 that invoked the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an agreement in which states can seek help from other governors in emergencies.

The letter asked other governors to supply “additional manpower” because the Biden administration had proven “unwilling or unable” to enforce federal immigration laws.

“The cartels will see to it that their deadly fentanyl and human-trafficking victims reach far and wide,” the letter reads, citing immigrants from as far away as Senegal, Uzbekistan, and Bangladesh. “The convicted criminals they smuggle into the homeland will bring recidivism with them to far too many of your communities.”

Johnson said that he wanted to help South Dakota contribute troops to the effort.

“They should make them go through the right channels, not let every nation walk across our borders when men died to protect America,” Johnson said, referring to border crossings.

Johnson went on to call Biden an “idiot,” saying that the President “just wants to do everything that Trump didn’t try to do — he doesn’t care if it’s right or wrong.”

So far, Florida, Nebraska, and Iowa have pledged to send law enforcement to Texas and Arizona.

“People don’t respect nothing unless they work for it,” Johnson said, referring to the Biden administration’s policies.

“You’ve gotta work for what you got, and you’ve gotta respect what other people has — but not shooting and killing and lying and raping and doing other kinds of stuff because they’ve got free money,” he added

“It’s just chaos with this President, and he don’t care,” Johnson added.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: