Texas border surge costs outlined in report

Texas Department of Safety Troopers patrol on the Rio Grand along the U.S.-Mexico border, Thursday, July 24, 2014, in Mission, Texas. Texas is spending $1.3 million a week for a bigger DPS presence along the border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Temporary funding for the border surge may run out soon after troops in training right now head south.

A Texas Senate hearing is breaking down how much surge operations and border issues are costing Texas.

The Texas Legislative Budget Board estimates the surge effort at the border will cost the state $17- to $18 million per month.

For now, money is mostly coming from $38 million from an Emergency Radio Infrastructure Fund.

“Given just what we think is budgeted per month, we’ll get through the end of October, maybe November a bit,” said Maj. Gen. John Nichols, adjutant general of Texas.

“We’re going to have to find a new source or get the federal government to do their job and pay for this,” said Texas Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who heads up the Senate Committee on Finance. “That’s the really frustrating part of this. As a state, we shouldn’t have to do what the federal government should be doing.”

The budget board highlighted the estimated $12 million cost each month for National Guard deployment. A majority of that is for paying troops and lodging.

Maj. Gen. Nichols says about 500 troops are training at Camp Swift right now.

“At some point we need to question: How long will we deploy the National Guard along the border,” said said Texas Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “How is that dealing with the issue of immigration and the problems that we have?”

The estimated cost for the efforts on the border by the Texas Department of Public Safety is $1.3 million each week. Most of that money is for overtime.

DPS had spent $7.2 million on border surge operations from June 18 to Aug. 5, according to the report.

The budget board is also laying out possible options to pay for the additional costs until the legislature is back in session, including shifting funds between agencies or programs, a disaster declaration from the governor, or an emergency declaration.

The report shows that Health and Human Services in the state is not bearing any significant costs because of the influx of unaccompanied children or because of additional security at the border.

The report also gives a glimpse at the number of unaccompanied children that may attend Texas schools.

The report says 4,280 children have been released to sponsors in Texas, with more projected to be on the way. The release of children to sponsors, such as family members, is a normal part of the immigration process while children await proceedings.

The cost to the state for educating the unaccompanied children for a year could be about $75 million, according to the report.

“If we have expenses now placed upon us that we didn’t anticipate, that’s going to take away money from children in this state right now,” said Sen. Nelson.

“I think the numbers are overstated,” said Sen. Hinojosa. “We really do not have a clear handle on how many of those children are staying here in Texas. Most of them are traveling up north. Most of them will at some point, more than likely get deported under federal law. So that’s just a pretty rough estimate.”

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