HOUSTON — Gov. Rick Perry announced plans Monday to deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas border after saying he had grown tired of federal officials’ “lip service” and “empty promises.”
Perry said that the National Guard will provide support over the next month to the state-funded border surge he declared last month, “Operation Strong Safety.” The state surge is costing $1.3 million a week; the combined operation will cost $5 million per week.
It’s not clear how it will be funded, Perry said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican campaigning for governor, had asked the Obama administration for $30 million in temporary border aid and said the federal government should pay for the new plan.
“Texans are willing to put boots on the ground. But we expect Washington to foot the bill,” Abbott said.
The deployment comes amid a wave of growing resistance to the federal government’s efforts to apprehend, shelter and process a surge of families and 57,000 children who crossed the border illegally during the past nine months — double the number who made crossings last year.
Most come from Central America and crossed into Texas through the Rio Grande Valley.
Perry said unaccompanied children are a fraction of those crossing the border illegally. While the federal government focuses apprehension and aid efforts on them, criminals crossing illegally still pose a threat, including drug smugglers, human traffickers and Mexican cartels exploiting the crisis.
It was not clear what the National Guard’s duties on the border will include. Perry said troops would work to support state and local law enforcement as a “force multiplier.”
But Texas Adjutant General John Nichols said his troops might do more than just assist.
“If we were asked to, we could detain people,” Nichols said during the briefing, “But we’re not planning on that. We’re planning on referring and deterring.”
Democrats and some Texas border sheriffs have criticized the deployment, warning against militarization of the border.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat campaigning for governor, responded to Perry’s announcement by calling for a different border surge — adding more sheriff’s deputies to the region.
Davis reiterated her demand last month that Perry convene an emergency legislative session to deploy the deputies.
“If the federal government won’t act, Texas must and will. However, we should be deploying additional deputy sheriffs to the border like local law enforcement is calling for, rather than Texas National Guard units who aren’t even authorized to make arrests,” she said in a statement after Perry’s briefing.
State Rep. Terry Canales, a Democrat from the valley, dismissed the National Guard deployment as a political ploy by Republican state leaders and a governor bent on another presidential run.
Canales, a lawyer, questioned whether National Guard troops could legally detain those suspected of crossing the border illegally.
“A soldier standing there with a gun who cannot detain or arrest somebody — they might as well be carrying broomsticks,” he said, “I’m a big supporter of our armed forces. But I don’t think this is the solution — in fact, I think it exacerbates the problem.”
Canales said the money would be better spent funding the state border surge — which he supports — or local law enforcement.
“What we have is a humanitarian crisis and we have an immigration policy that has clearly failed. I agree with him that more boots on the ground would not be a bad idea but the boots have to have the capacity to do something,” he said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services