AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday plans to activate and deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border in an effort to bolster border security.
As the influx of immigrants crossing the border illegally, especially unaccompanied children, has hit the Texas border in recent months, Perry says border patrol agents have been pulled away from their law enforcement duties to provide humanitarian aid. As a result, he says, “…drug cartels and human traffickers, individual criminals are exploiting this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities.”
“I am using my executive authority as Governor of Texas and activating the National Guard,” he said.
“Thousands of lives have been affected forever,” Perry said as he detailed some 3,000 homicides and 8,000 sexual assaults committed in Texas by “criminal aliens” since 2008.
“There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government’s failure to secure our border,” Gov. Perry said. “The action I am ordering today will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America.”
Texas Adjutant General John Nichols said the National Guardsmen will begin training shortly before deploying to the border to work alongside federal and local law enforcement members. The troops’ objective is to combat criminal elements who may be trying to enter the country.
“What we’re asking the National Guard to be a force multiplier,” Perry said, “to be there as a partner with the law enforcement.”
“Technically speaking, if we were asked to, we could detain people,” Gen. Nichols said of the guard’s role, “We’re not planning on that. We’re planning on referring and deterring. So, deterring them with a visible presence and referring anyone we see we think are illegal immigrants to DPS.”
The troops will be in addition to troopers from the Department of Public Safety who Perry ordered to begin law enforcement activities along the border last month as part of Operation Strong Safety.
During his announcement Monday, Perry said apprehensions of people entering the country illegally have dropped by 36 percent in the three weeks since the operation began.
More than 3,000 Border Patrol agents currently work in South Texas, and Perry has repeatedly asked President Barack Obama to send the National Guard to the border. Monday, Perry will deploy the troops as part of his powers as commander in chief of the Texas Military Forces.
Perry’s planned announcement comes amid increasing national attention on a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children who are crossing the border posing new challenges to an already overwhelmed federal immigration system.
Cost of activating the National Guard
Gen. Nichols says the cost of activating the up to 1,000 guardsmen is approximately $12 million a month. Gov. Perry stepped in to say the deployment will be paid for by state dollars.
“Bottom line it is going to be funded and fully funded,” Perry said. “At some point in time, the federal government will respect its constitutional requirement and reimburse the state.”
The governor asked President Barack Obama to activate troops for border security purposes during their meeting earlier this month in Dallas. If activated by the president, federal dollars would automatically foot the bill.
‘Not just a humanitarian crisis’
Attorney General Greg Abbott spoke during the announcement Monday the situation along the border isn’t just about handling all of the children crossing the border but is also about the public safety of every Texas resident.
Abbott said his office will work with the Texas National Guard to provide legal advice.
Border Security by the numbers
Of the families and unaccompanied immigrant children who came to the U.S. in 2014, 88 percent came crossed the border in Texas or New Mexico. In 2013, 369,433 undocumented immigrants were apprehended in Texas or New Mexico (The border patrol agents in New Mexico report through the El Paso segment of Customs and Border Patrol).
In Arizona, 2013 saw 140,786 apprehensions by 5,046 border patrol agents. California’s 3713 assigned border patrol agents logged 46,240 apprehensions in the same time frame.