Lawmakers: Is beefed-up border security worth it?

AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) — A legislative panel is questioning what Texas will ultimately have to show for the $4.2 million per week it’s spending on beefed-up border security amid a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children.

Gov. Rick Perry is deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border at a weekly cost of $3 million. The state was already spending an additional $1.2 million weekly on border security.

Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw told a Texas House hearing Tuesday in Austin that while children aren’t criminals, they’re crossing the border with smuggling gangs.

McCraw says federal authorities have been overwhelmed, causing other crime to spike.

But committee Democrats wondered what would constitute success, since Texas is trying to stop crime and illegal border crossings that were common before the current immigration spike.

The director of the Department of Public Safety says the surge of DPS troopers is supposed to deter people from crossing the border illegally.

“The mission is to deny the Mexican cartels unfettered access and transnational gangs and criminal aliens between the ports of entry,” said McCraw.

Some members of this Texas House committee pressed McCraw about how long the surge on the border will last.

“Hopefully until there’s no need for it, and my understanding is until January.”

Still, McCraw says the surge could last longer.

He suggested the goal should be to get border apprehensions down in the area DPS is focusing its efforts.

McCraw said the first week of the surge saw 6,000 apprehensions of undocumented immigrants in the area. The numbers have since dropped to 3,600.

His goal is to get the numbers below 2,000 apprehensions per week. Ideally, he’d like to see zero.

“We have to make a choice as to what we’re going to do on the border in a long term sense, so that we can be more intelligent with spending the dollar,” said Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, Texas.

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